Multivitamins & Prostate Cancer

By Philip S. Chua, M.D., FACS, FPCS
MEN taking multivitamins more than once daily, more than 7 days a week, have 30 percent higher risk of developing advanced prostate cancer and doubling the risk of death from this malignancy, reported a new study.

Taking too many multivitamins and/or mega-doses of “food supplements” is hazardous to health. Overdosing on anything is abuse, and therefore, unhealthy and unsafe.

The new findings from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) noted that regular multivitamin intake, once a day, was not associated with increase cancer risk. The research included more than 295,000 men who were enrolled in a diet and health study for five years.

What is interesting is that even excessive use of vitamins did not increase the risk of early or localized prostate cancer; abuse was linked to the increase risk of the development of advanced type of prostate cancer. The study found that the association “was strongest among men with a family history of prostate cancer and men who also took selenium, beta-carotene, or zinc supplements.”

The study did not have any data as to which individual vitamin in a multi-vitamin preparation was responsible for the increased risk.

Scientifically, there is no evidence to date that taking multivitamins at any frequency help prevent cancer of the prostate. But taking one multivitamin once daily is safe and a general medical recommendation, especially for those ‘who eat and run,’ who may not be eating an adequate nourishing diet, for children and the elderly.

“Based on our findings, we would recommend that men adhere to recommendations for dietary supplements and consult with their physician before taking supplements in excessive doses,” NCI researcher Michael F. Leitzmann, M.D., Ph.D., tells WebMD.

The analysis of 47 studies “assessing antioxidant supplementation, published earlier this year, found a slight increase in deaths among people who took beta-carotene, vitamin E, or vitamin A supplements.”

As far as antioxidants being aggressively market on all media are concerned, Dr. Christian Gluud, co-author of the investigation, reported “that there is little evidence of a benefit for antioxidant supplementation and mounting evidence of potential harm.”

These clinicians and some others hypothesize that the notorious and dreaded “bad free radicals” being targeted by antioxidants, may, in fact, be “doing some good by targeting and killing harmful cells, such as those that cause cancers to grow.” This is a theory that is being extensively studied in centers around the world.

The investigators stated that: “Our diets typically contain safe levels of vitamins, but high-level antioxidant supplements could potentially upset an important physiologic balance.”

Calcium and vitamin D3

As we reported in this column on December 6, 2010, the science on calcium’s role in bone health shows that 700 milligrams per day meets the needs of almost all children ages 1 through 3, and 1,000 milligrams daily is appropriate for almost all children ages 4 through 8. Adolescents ages 9 through 18 require no more than 1,300 milligrams per day.  For practically all adults ages 19 through 50 and for men until age 71, 1,000 milligrams covers daily calcium needs. Women starting at age 51 and both men and women age 71 and older need no more than 1,200 milligrams per day.

As for vitamin D, 600 IUs daily meets the needs of almost everyone in the United States and Canada, although people 71 and older may require as much as 800 IUs per day because of potential physical and behavioral changes related to aging. Vitamin D3 is the preferred form of D for supplement.

With the hype on mega-dose vitamins and ‘super’ beverages and pills claiming to have health benefits and “cures for dozens of all diseases, including cancer,” the food supplement industry is propelled by the billions of dollars it rakes in annually.

The dangerous public misinformation majority of the various companies use in the marketing of their ‘wonder’ products has resulted in countless hospitalizations and deaths around the world. Since these products are exempt from the scrutiny of drug, food, and health agencies, they are available to the public in general, without prescription. Most of these companies are taking advantage of the consumers’ ignorance, gullibility, and obsessive search for the illusive fountain of youth.

Overdosing on anything is unsafe. Multivitamins, calcium, D3, fish oil, cholesterol-lowering statins are among the great scientific discoveries of our time and are beneficial to our body when used properly as recommended by the prescribing physician. Abusing any of them is unwise and unsafe.

Cliché or trite, these are nonetheless words of wisdom: too much of even a good thing is bad. And this is also true with all the activities, food, and drinks we shall enjoy during these wonderful holidays. A great gift we can all give ourselves on this special occasion and all the days of our life is a happy package of loved ones, good health, and peace.

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