Proponents of vitamins and minerals have talked about this for decades, but finally a 13-year study proves them right. Multivitamin/mineral supplements have been shown to significantly reduce cancer risk in men in this one study. "Take your vitamins" resulted in an 8% drop in overall cancers. This information is hugely important. The ripples of these results could be felt across food industries around the world.
"An 8% drop in overall cancer rates is not small," said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI). When you consider that there are more than 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. every year, 8% could translate almost 130,000 cancer cases prevented each year. LPI researchers have long followed the lead of nutrition innovator, Linus Pauling, and have promoted the use of multivitamins based on their studies. LPI agrees with the findings, but did not take part in the study. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University is a world leader in the study of micronutrients and their role in promoting optimum health and preventing disease. Cancer is one of their major areas of concern.
Scientists from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital published the research under the title "Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men." The information was shared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Lead researcher Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital says, "It certainly appears there is a modest reduction in the risk of cancer from a typical multivitamin."
For most of my life, conventional wisdom has been that people eating a normal healthy diet will get all of the vitamins and micronutrients that their bodies require. Of course militant nutritionists have stated the opposite. While a healthy diet is the target we should all aim for, there are nutritional gaps. With a growing understanding of genetics we're beginning to understand more about the connection between our own genetic weaknesses, and what certain vitamins and minerals can do to turn genes on and off and protect our DNA from damage.
"And it's worth noting that the research was done with 14,600 physicians," Frei said. "This highly-educated group has a better diet, knowledge base and health habits than the average person, so it's reasonable to believe that the impact of multivitamin use in the general population will be even greater." He added, "Research has shown that over 90 percent of the U.S. population, for instance, doesn"t get enough vitamin E, and that 40 percent of elderly Americans have inadequate zinc in their diet."
Some cancers including prostate cancer were unaffected by the use of multivitamins. If you don"t consider prostate cancer in the analysis, all the other cancers combined dropped by 12%. This reduction appeared to be due to fewer cases of leukemia and colorectal, lung and bladder cancers in those men who took the multivitamin.
"It's encouraging to think that we could have such a profound effect on the health of millions of people for something that is so inexpensive, while also reducing the enormous costs of treating cancer, both in terms of actual dollars and human suffering," Frei said. "A multivitamin/mineral is now known to reduce cancer risk in humans."
Multivitamins are the most common dietary supplement, taken by at least one-third of all U.S. adults. Wide-spread use of multivitamins could help reduce healthcare costs. A healthy diet, exercise and not smoking could lower cancer risk by an additional 20 to 30%. In the meantime, a penny a day for a multivitamin could be cheap health insurance.
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