- An independent team of experts said there is not enough evidence dietary supplements prevent heart disease or cancer.
- The US Preventive Services Task Force said beta-carotene supplements can cause more harm than good.
- A preventative medicine doctor said there are “no shortcuts” to preventing disease, just diet and exercise.
An independent team of preventative medicine experts said there is insufficient evidence that taking dietary supplements prevents cardiovascular disease or cancer.
The US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent team of volunteer scientists who go over current research and data to make recommendations about preventative health, released revised recommendations on dietary supplements today.
The USPSTF has recommended healthy, non-pregnant Americans not take beta-carotene, a compound the body converts into vitamin A. Taking too many supplements can cause vitamin A toxicity and lead to muscle and bone pain, nausea, and hair loss.
The independent agency also said there is “no net benefit” from taking
supplements. As for multivitamins, the “evidence is insufficient” to determine if they can prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer in healthy people.
The recommendation does not apply to children, pregnant people, the chronically ill or hospitalized, or those with diagnosed nutrient deficiencies.
“The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of the use of multivitamin supplements, or single- or paired-nutrient supplements (other than beta carotene and vitamin E), for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer,” the agency stated.
There are ‘no shortcuts’ when it comes to preventing disease
Northwestern Medicine scientists penned an editorial expanding on USPSTF’s recommendations, calling dietary supplements “wasted money” for healthy, non-pregnant people. The editorial appears in June 2022 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Beyond wasted money, the focus on supplements might be viewed as a potentially harmful distraction,” Northwestern doctors stated.
dr Jenny Jia, a board certified preventative medicine doctor at Northwestern, told Insider she hopes the editorial will help consumers make better decisions in the form of swapping dietary supplements for a balanced diet and exercise.
The doctor added that because dietary supplements do not receive pre-market scrutiny from the US Food and Drug Administration, certain supplements contain unlisted ingredients.
“I think that the results of the study do seem to emphasize that, unfortunately, when it comes to preventing disease, there’s no shortcuts,” Jia said. “You have to adopt healthy behaviors in order ot maintain your health.”
Jia said the advice is “easier said than done” for low-income Americans, who contend with the higher cost of healthy food and the time cost to cook from scratch. Jia has researched how food banks and pantries can help low-income Americans get easy access to healthy foods.
“Currently, our food system — the policies and the production — are not structured in a way that the healthy choice is the default choice or the easiest choice to make,” Jia said.