New Report in Annals of Internal Medicine Recognizes Limited Cancer Prevention Benefit for Multivitamins—Safety of Multivitamins and Calcium Supplements Reaffirmed

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 11, 2013In response to a systematic literature review published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer,” funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and conducted by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research to support the work of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) new draft recommendations, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, issued the following statement:

Statement by Duffy MacKay, N.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN: 

“Cancer is a complex disease, and the fact that there is even some, albeit limited, evidence that a simple multivitamin could prevent cancer demonstrates promise and should give consumers added incentive to keep taking their multivitamins. As the researchers have indicated, there is limited evidence for multivitamins in preventing cancer or cardiovascular disease; however, we believe the paucity of clinical trial evidence should not be misinterpreted as a lack of benefit for the multivitamin. We know for sure that multivitamins can fill nutrient gaps, and as so many people are not even reaching the recommended dietary allowances for many nutrients, that’s reason enough to add an affordable and convenient multivitamin to their diets.

Further, given the encouraging results from the Physicians’ Health Study (PHS) II (Gaziano et al, 2012)—the study referenced in this report as demonstrating benefit for multivitamins and cancer risk in men—academics and government, as well as our own industry, should continue to support and fund research to clarify this relationship and to determine additional benefits for vitamins and other dietary supplements.

In reviewing the scientific literature, the authors reaffirmed the overall safety for the multivitamin, noting there was ‘…no consistent pattern of harm from nutritional dosages of multivitamins’ but identifying a few studies for a few individual nutrients that pointed to some risk. They also debunked concerns raised by some researchers about calcium and cardiovascular disease, noting that while additional research should further examine this question, available studies did not show consistent findings for concern.

We commend the authors of this systematic review for noting that trials designed to evaluate drug therapy ‘…might not be ideally suited to evaluating nutrients’ as this confirms what many in the nutrition science community have focused on for years. Nutrients work in synergy with other nutrients, and likely also in combination with other lifestyle choices, such as exercise and proper sleep. We should consider vitamins a piece of the health puzzle, not magic bullets that are the be-all and end-all for preventing serious diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. Multivitamins fill in nutrient gaps from our less-than-perfect diets and support a host of other physiological functions.  If there are benefits for vitamins for cancer and cardiovascular disease, those benefits are icing on the cake.”

Note to the editor: The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 100+ dietary supplement manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as to CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit Follow us on Twitter @crn_supplements and @wannabewell and on Facebook.