The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is applauding the recent findings of a U.S. government task force, which found no evidence that vitamin supplementation can help reduce the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease (CVD). Soon after the findings were made public, AICR representatives issued a news release expressing hope that Americans will finally heed the message that overall diet, not some “magic bullet” or potion, is the key to good health.
The government’s findings, published in the July 1 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, recommend that people not take beta-carotene supplements to lower their risk of cancer or CVD. The AICR concurs with this recommendation and points to its own 1997 report titled Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. This report examined more than 4,500 studies and concluded that eating a healthy diet was a better course of action than taking supplements. The AICR report found convincing evidence that diets high in a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans, can lower the risk of cancer.
Despite the government’s task force findings, AICR recognizes that it is facing an uphill battle, since 43 percent of Americans currently take a daily multivitamin for health reasons. The belief that vitamin supplements can help prevent cancer is particularly strong among older adults. In a survey conducted by AICR in 2000, 54 percent of older adults said they consider supplementation a cancer deterrent. Sadly, Americans are more likely to look for health in a bottle (43%) than make the overall dietary changes needed to foster better health (39%), according to that survey.