A new research by the U.S. government-backed health panel has categorically declared that taking multivitamins or other nutritional supplements such as Vitamin E and beta-carotene do not help fight against heart disease and cancer.
According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, the reverse actually happens when people take in beta-carotene supplements. In fact, such supplements heightens the risk of lung cancer in people who are already at increased risk for the disease.
Manufacturers had long advertised that taking vitamin or mineral supplements promote general health, based on studies that oxidative stress contributes to ailments like cancer and heart disease.
"Cardiovascular disease and cancer have a significant health impact in America, and we all want to find ways to prevent these diseases," Dr Virginia Moyer, who heads the Task Force, said in a statement.
However, studies conducted by the task force failed to come up with favorable results to show that multivitamins, individual vitamins and minerals, and specifically beta-carotene and vitamin E could indeed reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer in people with no nutritional deficiencies.
Moreover, the task force found "adequate evidence" that taking beta-carotene actually ups the risk of lung cancer in people, most especially those who smoke and people exposed to asbestos at work.
"Beta-carotene can be harmful because it increases the risk of lung cancer in people who are already at increased risk for the disease," Michael LeFevre, Task Force co-chair, said.
It would be best for people to consume a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and seafood rather than taking supplements, the Task Force said.
"The current U.S. Preventive Services Task Force report has collated the available data and confirmed what many of us have suspected - popping a pill is no substitute for eating sensibly and moving more," Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston, said.
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