Vitamins ‘can raise cancer risk’

Published: Tuesday 21st April 2015 by The News Editor

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Taking vitamin supplements may actually increase the risk of getting cancer and heart disease, new research has warned.

Millions of Britons take vitamin supplements regularly in a bid to stay fit and healthy, b ut a decade-long study which examined the healthy benefits of supplements on thousands of people found they can do “more harm than good”.

Experts warned that taking above the recommended daily amount of over-the-counter vitamins may increase the risk of developing cancer and heart disease by up to 20%.

And they urged the public to get their vitamins from a healthy diet rather than rely on pills.

Tim Byers, a professor at the University of Colorado Cancer Centre who led the study, said: “We are not sure why this is happening at the molecular level, but evidence shows that people who take more dietary supplements than needed tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer.”

The revelations will raise questions over the market for shop-bought vitamins, which according to market research group Mintel was estimated to be worth £385 million in 2012.

The research team began investigating the potential health benefits contained within vitamins and minerals 20 years after observing that people who ate more fruits and vegetables tended to have less cancer. It wanted to see if taking supplements would produce the same effects.

Prof Byers said: “When we first tested dietary supplements in animal models we found that the results were promising.

“Eventually we were able to move on to the human populations. We studied thousands of patients for 10 years who were taking dietary supplements and placebos.”

But they were surprised to discover that far from boosting people’s health, taking too much of a vitamin supplement can increase the risk of potentially fatal diseases.

Prof Byers said: “We found that the supplements were actually not beneficial for their health. In fact, some people actually got more cancer while on the vitamins.”

One trial exploring the effects of beta-keratin supplements showed that taking more than the recommended dosage increased the risk for developing both lung cancer and heart disease by 20%.

Folic acid, which was thought to help reduce the number of potentially cancerous growths known as polyps in a colon, actually increased the number in another trial.

Prof Byers said the findings did not suggest that all vitamin supplements were dangerous and should be shunned. But he warned that taking too many of them can carry a health risk.

He said: “This is not to say that people need to be afraid of taking vitamins and minerals. If taken at the correct dosage, multivitamins can be good for you. But there is no substitute for good, nutritional food.

“At the end of the day we have discovered that taking extra vitamins and minerals do more harm than good.”

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Published: Tuesday 21st April 2015 by The News Editor

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