Vitamin Tablets

Clinical trials of vitamins

Approximately 20-30% of Americans consume multivitamin supplements daily, indicating high public interest in the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases through a nutrition-based approach. Although several bioactive food components, including vitamins and minerals, have been investigated for their ability to affect cancer risk, few large, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of multivitamins with cancer as the primary endpoint have been performed. The results of most large-scale trials of multivitamin supplements (combinations of > or = 2 vitamins and minerals) to prevent cancer have been mixed. The Linxian General Population and Dysplasia trials found a decreased risk of cancer, particularly stomach cancer, for participants taking a multivitamin supplement, but this was in a borderline-deficient population in China. Two trials, the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study and the beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial, found an increased risk of lung cancer among male cigarette smokers or asbestos-exposed persons taking beta-carotene-a surprising result, considering that most epidemiologic studies have suggested that consumption of fruit and vegetables appears to lower cancer risk. To clarify the effects of multivitamin supplements, several large randomized clinical trials are underway, including the Physicians’ Health Study II, the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, and a European study, Supplémentation en Vitamines et Minéraux Antioxydants (SU.VI. MAX). Because epidemiologic studies generally evaluate foods rather than specific bioactive food components, a systematic approach to determining how combinations of vitamins and minerals may interact to ameliorate cancer risk is necessary to further our understanding of the potential benefits and risks of supplement use.

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