Federal Panel Questions Evidence of Benefits to Taking Vitamins
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has determined that there is not enough evidence to support claims that vitamin supplements reduce people's risk of developing cancer and heart disease, according to an analysis published in today's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Loviglio, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/30). The task force, an independent advisory panel that is sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, reviewed studies about effects of vitamins A, C and E; multivitamins with folic acid; and antioxidant combinations on cancer or heart disease risk in adults. The panel concluded that taking vitamins has no clear benefit of cancer or heart disease reduction but acknowledged that the number of studies was inadequate and that the studies' durations were not long enough to rule out possible benefits of long-term use (Bowman, Scripps Howard/Detroit News, 7/1). The group also recommended against taking beta-carotene supplements to prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease because studies showed heavy smokers who took the supplements had higher rates of cancer and death than smokers who did not take them; the effect on nonsmokers was not conclusive. Janet Allan, vice chair of the panel, said that the task force may revisit the topic of vitamins' benefits when 12 related studies currently underway are completed. "The bottom line is that there isn't enough good research out there for us to make a decision," she added (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/30). Allan also said that vitamin supplements "may be necessary" for certain people, such as pregnant and nursing women and people with specific illnesses, but "the benefits of vitamin supplements for the general population remain uncertain" (Scripps Howard/Detroit News, 7/1). The guidelines are available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.