Vitamins and Herbs for Cancer Prevention: The Facts!

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You've probably experienced someone in the past who has tried to sell you an herb, vitamin or other supplement that claims it will prevent cancer. They come in many different forms like pills, powders, or liquid

How do you know if what they say is true? And what are the facts on vitamins, herbs and cancer prevention anyway?

Here are some basics that you need to know before spending a fortune on something that might not be anything more than a sugar pill!

Cancer Prevention Studies

When it comes to vitamins and cancer prevention, there have been a few studies lately. A recent study on vitamin B6, B12 and folate came out in November's Journal of the American Medical Association. Their conclusion is that:

"Combined folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 treatment had no significant effect on overall risk of total invasive cancer or breast cancer among women... Our trial says that [using the 3 nutritional supplements daily] does not appear to be an effective approach to preventing cancer in women"
Another study conducted on men and prostate cancer prevention used selenium and Vitamin E. Preliminary results of that show that "selenium and vitamin E supplements, taken either alone or together, did not prevent prostate cancer". That study was done by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The American Institute for Cancer Research has done extensive review of recent peer-reviewed studies and recommends NOT using supplements to try to protect against cancer.

Multivitamins: Harm or Help?

You might wonder, what's the harm from taking extra vitamins or herbs? Vitamins are just like an insurance policy, right? That's what we used to think, but experts are beginning to change their minds. (We're good at that!!).

Most of the studies at this point suggest that taking a multivitamin is not helpful unless your vitamin levels are low or you have a medical condition requiring supplementation. Some studies have even suggested that taking a multivitamin can be harmful for people who do not have deficiencies.

With the exception of vitamin D (supplementation with D may lower risk of colorectal cancer), most experts would say that it's not necessarily recommended to take vitamins every day. However, if you really think that you want to take one, follow my bottom line.

Bottom Line: Supplements aren't necessary for the general population, but if you want to take a multivitamin, find one that does not have more than 100% of the RDA of anything and take 1/2 of the recommended amount each day.

What Does Julie Do??

Glad you asked! I actually do not take a multivitamin. I try to get all I need with a plant based diet. I do have a bottle of Vitamin D supplements that I regularly forget to take!

For more specific recommendations on multivitamins, check out this great article from the Nutrition Action Newsletter: Spin the Bottle 

Look for more on this topic in the future!
- Julie

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This page contains a single entry by Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN published on December 1, 2008 12:55 PM.

Bonus Post! Holiday Tips and Recipes: Party Strategies was the previous entry in this blog.

Achievable New Years Resolutions! is the next entry in this blog.

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