CRN Urges Caution When Interpreting New Study on B Vitamins

CRN Urges Caution When Interpreting New Study on B Vitamins

Focusing on vitamin B may not be the answer to protecting against this increase in lung cancer risk, Basky said. Worryingly, the exact opposite may be true if they are taken at high levels over long periods of time.

Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine found an increase of 30-40% for lung cancer in men taking individual B6 and B12 supplements, not from multivitamins or diets.

"I think these results point to a synergism" between high-dose B vitamins, smoking and lung cancer risk among men, Brasky said, Medical Xpress reported. This finding of increased risk appeared to be specific to men who were current smokers.

"That's marketing. That's not science", Brasky noted.

The researchers determined that men who now smoked and reported taking more than 20 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6 daily during the 10-year period leading up to the study were about three times as likely to develop lung cancer than current smokers who didn't use B6 supplements at all. Dr. Kourosh Ahmadi with Surrey University says it is highly unlikely very many people are taking the vitamins above the recommended daily allowance.

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The link between B vitamins and lung cancer was only evident in those taken from individual supplementation, not those which were included as part of a multivitamin.

"These are doses that can only be obtained from taking high-dose B vitamin supplements, and these supplements are many times the United States recommended dietary allowance".

Until more research is completed, there is no conclusive link between high doses of vitamin B and lung cancer. The numerous benefits of B vitamins from food and dietary supplements, including supporting cognition, heart health, and energy levels, are well-established, and this study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology doesn't change those facts.

For the study, epidemiologists Theodore Brasky (The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia) and colleagues analysed data from the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study, which was created to assess the use of vitamin and mineral supplements in relation to cancer risk. This is the first study to prospectively examine the effects of extended, high-dose B6/B12 supplement use and lung cancer risk.

"But if you look at these supplement bottles, they're being sold in pill form at up to 5,000 micrograms per dose, which is much, much higher than the daily recommended amount", Brasky said. Results revealed that just over 800 of the study volunteers developed lung cancer over an average follow-up of six years. He pointed out, "When we're talking about what to be concerned about most: If you're a male smoker and you want to take B vitamins, you can stop smoking". Furthermore, he emphasized that the "powerful prospective observational study" really shows that "normal" supplement consumption does not cause cancer.

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