The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has concluded that evidence is insufficient to determine the effectiveness of taking vitamins and minerals to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer. “Cardiovascular disease and cancer have a significant health impact in america, and we all want to find ways to prevent these diseases,” said task Force Chair Virginia Moyer. “However, we found that there is not enough evidence to determine whether taking single or paired nutrients or a multivitamin helps to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer.”

The independent panel of experts, which based its determination on five multivitamin studies and 24 studies on individual or paired supplements, also discouraged taking vitamin e and beta-carotene, asserting that evidence shows “no benefit” to taking vitamin e supplements to prevent heart disease or cancer and beta carotene could be harmful because it may increase the risk of lung cancer in people already at risk for developing the disease. “Due to the uncertain benefit of vitamin supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, health care professionals should use their best judgment and consider their patient’s health history, values, and preferences when having conversations about nutritional supplements,” said task Force Co-chair Michael LeFevre.

Representatives of the vitamin industry, including the Council for responsible nutrition (CRN), note that the task force recommendations apply only to healthy adults older than age 50 and are irrelevant to children, women of childbearing age or adults with known nutritional deficiencies. “the report’s conclusion that there is ‘…not enough evidence…’ for recommendations in the areas of cancer and cardiovascular disease should not be considered as a lack of benefit as there is a big difference between lack of research and lack of positive results,” said CRN senior Vice president Duffy macKay. See CRN News Release, February 24, 2014; Task Force News Release, February 25, 2014.