Taking Too Many Vitamin Pills May Increase Risk of Cancer
Many people take vitamin tablets in order to stay healthy and prevent illness. However, a new study says that taking too many vitamins may not only be unhelpful, but can do more harm than good.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Centre analysed supplement use in participants over a period of ten years, and found that certain vitamins can have negative effects if consumed more than is needed.
“We studied patients who were taking dietary supplements and placebos,” says study leader Dr Tim Byers. “The supplements were actually not beneficial for their health. In fact, some people got more cancer while on the vitamins.”
Beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor, was found to raise the risk of lung cancer and heart disease by 20%, while vitamin B9 (or folic acid) was found to increase the number of colon polyps – small growths on the inner lining of the colon which can lead to bowel cancer.
“We are not sure why this is happening at the molecular level,” says Dr Byers. “But evidence shows that people who take more dietary supplements than needed tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer.”
Vitamin and mineral supplements are meant to bridge gaps in nutrition, but too many take them as a substitute for a truly healthy diet, or see them as an all-round resistance-booster. A large amount of people are unaware of just how high the doses in their supplements can be, which makes it easy for them to take too many, while unaware of the damage they could be causing.
“This is not to say that people need to be afraid of taking vitamins and mineral,” says Dr Byers. “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,” he concludes.