This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
In the first large study to test the benefits of America’s most commonly used supplement, multivitamins, scientists found they reduced the risk of cancer in men by 8 percent. Prof Balz Frei of the Linus Pauling Institute says this percentage that some have called “modest” is actually not small, as it translates into the possible prevention of 130,000 cancers of the 1.6 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the country every year.
On the other hand, cancer experts point out that the 8 percent reduction in cancer risk is less than the risk reduction that would be experienced through eating a healthful diet, engaging in regular exercise and abstaining from smoking, each of which cut cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent.
Long-Term Gold Standard Study Has Positive Results
Published in JAMA, the research is the only study exploring the disease prevention effects of the long-term use of a multivitamin, and the methodology used was the gold standard of a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial. Over 14,000 male doctors were randomly assigned to receive either a multivitamin or placebo for 11 years. Although no benefit was seen for prostate cancer, the supplement reduced the risk of the other cancers by approximately 12 percent.
The positive results of the study were surprising because other studies investigating certain individual vitamins found they do not reduce the risk of chronic disease and some are actually detrimental rather than helpful. It is important to note that research finding increased health risks associated with vitamins dealt with doses larger than the recommended daily amounts typically contained within multivitamins. Some consumers may believe that if a little is good, then more is better. In regard to vitamins, this may not always be the case.
Based on the data derived from the current study, the researchers concluded that “it provides support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle aged and older men.” Frei asserts the results should put to rest the doubts of those who are skeptical of the value of multivitamins.
A Word of Caution
However, experts recommend checking with your doctor before taking vitamins, as some can interfere with certain medications. Additionally, some vitamins can increase bleeding in people undergoing surgery, and high doses of vitamin A and beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
Moreover, in choosing a multivitamin, it is best to look for one that does not contain iron, unless you have been diagnosed with anemia. Iron supplementation has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.