WOMEN who take a daily multivitamin pill are nearly 20 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer, a major study has revealed.

This article by Clair Weaver is from The Sunday Telegraph April 18, 2010.

The shock finding has rattled Australia’s $2.5 billion complementary health industry, which is urging consumers not to panic.

In a 10-year study of more than 35,000 women, researchers discovered those who regularly took a multi-vitamin pill increased the risk of developing a tumour by 19 per cent.

They said the result was concerning and needed investigation as many women used multi-vitamins in the belief they prevented chronic diseases such as cancer. A “biologically plausible” explanation was that taking vitamin and mineral supplements significantly increased the density of breast tissue, a strong risk factor for breast cancer. Folic acid, often present in a potent form in multi-vitamins, may also accelerate tumour growth.

The Major Study Has Provoked Renewed Interest In Ingesting Vitamins And Minerals From Natural Sources

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females in Australia, affecting more than 12,000 and killing more than 2,700 women every year. One in nine women will be diagnosed with it by the age of 85.

The study, conducted by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has been greeted with interest and caution by Australian experts. Women who took a multivitamin pill in the study had higher breast tissue density than those who took no vitamin supplements.

The Use Of Multivitamins And The Risk Of Breast Cancer

“Results from this prospective study suggest that the use of multivitamins may increase the risk of breast cancer,” the lead author of the study, Susanna Larrson, said.

Multi-vitamins are big business in Australia, with leading maker Blackmores posting a before-tax profit of $30.6 million last financial year. Some nutritionists and dietitians argue supplements are unnecessary, as people absorb nutrients far better from food.

Multivitamins “Not All That They’re Cracked Up To Be?

Kathy Chapman, of the Cancer Council Australia, said the study would add to a growing body of evidence that multi-vitamins were “not all they’re cracked up to be”.

“It reinforces the importance of eating fresh fruit and vegetables rather than people thinking they can get more of their nutrition from a pill,” she said. “What we’ve learned over time in cancer is that quick fixes aren’t a good idea.”

People Absorb Nutrients Far Better From Natural Foods.

Taking a multi-vitamin pill was linked to a smaller increase in breast cancer risk than being overweight or drinking too much alcohol, she said.

The Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia said “consumers need not panic” at the findings. It cited “concerns over limitations to the study”, such as its reliance on self-administered questionnaires and failure to look at the bioactivity of multi-vitamin ingredients.

People Absorb Nutrients Far Better From Natural Foods.

Blackmores advised customers “not to be alarmed” by the study, which it claims is inconclusive and conflicts with other research.

Professor John Boyages, director of the Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and spokesman for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, said he “wouldn’t put any weight” on the study, as there were many complicated risk factors involved in breast cancer.

Delaying pregnancy until the age of 35, drinking alcohol every day and early-onset periods may each raise the risk by as much as 30 per cent, he said.

In another study, multivitamins failed to show benefits in a large study of older women, also.

Taking multivitamins in this study did not reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer—nor did it appear to prolong life. Marian L. Neuhouser, Ph.D from Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Division of Public Health Sciences was the lead author of the paper, which appears on the February 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The Study Enrolled More Than 160,000 Postmenopausal Women Ages 50 to 79 Who Were Followed For Eight Years.

Little Or No Influence On The Risk Of Cancer

Just over 41% of the women in the study used multivitamins. Most took multivitamins with minerals. Those who took multivitamins were also more likely to take supplements of vitamin C, vitamin E, and calcium.

Multivitamin users were also more likely to be white, thinner, more physically active, and better educated and to eat more fruits and vegetables than were women who did not take multivitamins.

Nonetheless, at the end of the study, women taking multivitamins were no less likely to develop such common cancers as cancer of the breast, colon or lung than were women who did not take multivitamins.

Nor were they less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or develop a blood clot. Nor were women taking multivitamins likely to live longer than women who did not take multivitamins.

At the same time, however, there was no evidence that the multivitamins harmed women taking them.

Their Conclusion: Multivitamin Use Has Little Or No Influence On The Risk Of Cancer

The results, the researchers write, “provide convincing evidence that multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of cancer or CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) in postmenopausal women.”Future efforts to prevent chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, should focus on nutrition and not multivitamins, the researchers write.

The study was conducted as part of the Women’s Health Initiative and was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Source Vitamins And Minerals From A Varied Diet Of Natural Sources

Nutrition Australia (NA) advocates getting vitamins and minerals from a varied diet rather than supplements.

“Your body will absorb vitamins and minerals so much better from food,” NA dietician Nicole Frederiksen said.

Says Nutrition Australia:

Nutrition Australia promotes a varied diet that consists largely of fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. Variety is important and we are fortunate in Australia that our availability of foods is extensive, compared to world food prices food is relatively inexpensive in Australia and our food supply reflects our cultural diversity.

Some key tips to healthy eating as shared by Nutrition Australia are:

  • Try and eat 30 different foods a day
  • When choosing vegetables for a meal enjoy the different colored vegetables available as the colour of fruit and vegetables contain important antioxidants important for health and disease prevention.
  • Choose water as your first choice to drink.
  • Prepare food at home whenever possible.
  • Take time out to enjoy meals with family and friends when possible. Families that eat together benefit from a range of health and social benefits.

OVERALL CONCLUSION: The reader has to understand one thing: according to the law, no one person or corporation can patent a vitamin. (Are you having an “aha!” moment?)

If You Were A Corporation Seeking To Dominate or Monopolise A Profitable Marketplace — You Won’t And Can’t Get The Patents To Control The Vitamin Market.

Readers may thereby draw the conclusion that there may be a politically-based movement to influence a huge, massive lucrative market of people, drawing them away from the use of multi-vitamin pills to further the sale of pharma-based products (or other) and the cause (ie: profits) of a largely pharma-based system and infrastructure.

Research can produces facts.  These facts can be used in presenting a context that may suit either side of the argument.

For more useful information on health resolution through natural organic food ingestion, see our related article: Health Restoring Diet And Nutrition Strategy – Organic Food Supplements

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