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Daily Dose

Evidence still unclear on promise of multivitamins

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Plenty of money has been spent on clinical trials to test the disease-preventive benefits of multivitamins, so by now researchers should have determined whether or not these supplements prevent heart disease or cancer. But the evidence still isn’t clear, according to a government-sponsored task force of primary care experts who reviewed the latest research.

The US Preventive Services Task Force panel issued an update last Monday to their decade-old recommendations and concluded, once again, that they can’t recommend either way whether we should or should not take multivitamins and most single nutrient supplements to protect against cancer and heart disease. They did, though, recommend firmly against taking beta carotene and vitamin E.

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That’s based on a handful of trials finding that both supplements raised the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer in those who took them rather than lowering their risk. Beta-carotene, for example, raised lung cancer risk in smokers compared to those who took a placebo.

“Due to the uncertain benefit of vitamin supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, health care professionals should use their best judgment and consider their patient’s health history, values, and preferences when having conversations about nutritional supplements,” task force co-chairman Dr. Michael LeFevre said in a statement.

The new recommendation only applies to healthy adults and not to pregnant women, children, or those with chronic diseases who have their own recommendations.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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