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December 17, 2013 | 2 minute read

Supplements a "Waste of Money" for Disease (Cancer) Prevention?

Over half of Americans take supplements, many with the hope of preventing chronic disease and staying mentally sharp. Yet it’s a waste of money, writes a group of physicians in a strongly-worded editorial published today.Supp_canstockphoto7372360

The editorial — stating “Enough is Enough” in the title — was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For cancer risk, AICR’s expert report and its continuous updates also found there is not enough evidence showing supplements offer protection. AICR recommends not relying on supplements, instead getting in your cancer-protective phytochemicals and nutrients from food.

The editorial cites three major articles. One was an analysis focusing on supplement use and cancer, along with cardiovascular disease, and mortality. That analysis was by the United States Preventive Services Task Force and published last month: we wrote about it here.

The other two studies are published in the same issue, one focusing on multivitamins and cognitive decline, the other on multivitamins and heart attacks. Taking these and other evidence, the authors write there is a large body of evidence showing no benefit to taking supplements. There is also possible harm with large doses of some supplements, such as with beta-carotene.

The people in these studies were generally nutritionally healthy. The message of supplements not offering protection is especially true for the general population who have no micronutrent deficiencies, the authors write.

Of course, there are some groups of people who would benefit from taking supplements. You can read that list in our Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.

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