Taking extra vitamins “does more harm than good” and increases the risk of cancer and heart disease, a major study has revealed.
Around 18 million Brits down supplements thinking they are getting a health boost, but research has found they can have the opposite effect.
Dr Tim Byers – one of the world’s top cancer experts – examined research papers spanning 30 years.
He looked at three widely taken over-the-counter pills and supplements, vitamin E tablets, beta-carotene and folic acid, and warned against exceeding the recommended daily amount.
Dr Byers said: “We are not sure why this is happening but evidence shows that people who take more dietary supplements than needed tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer.
“When we first tested dietary supplements in animal models we found that the results were promising.
“Eventually we were able to move on to humans. We studied thousands of patients for 10 years who were taking dietary supplements and placebos.
“We found that the supplements were actually not beneficial for their health. In fact, some people actually got more cancer while on the vitamins.”
Folic acid supplements are thought to be taken by more than 230,000 pregnant UK women each year as it can help prevent spina bifida and other birth defects affecting the brain and spine.
But one study examined by Dr Byers’ team found too much increased the chances of getting cancer by 56%.
The acid – also known as vitamin – is also taken to cut the risk of heart disease and polyps in a colon, which lead to cancer.
But the research found too much in supplement form in fact increased the number of dangerous polyps.
Two trials of beta-carotene supplements found taking more than the recommended dose increased the risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease by 20%.
Meanwhile another trial of 35,000 people between 2001 and 2014 in the States found taking too many vitamin E tablets increased the risk of developing prostate cancer by 17%.
Dr Byers, associate director for prevention and control at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, US, began his study after it emerged two decades ago that people eating more fruit and vegetables were less likely to get cancer.
He wanted to see if vitamin supplements – now an estimated £385million market in the UK – would reduce the threat of the killer disease even further.
But long term studies since the 1980s have found taking too many has the opposite effect.
One trial found the chances of lung cancer increased by 18% while another showed an rise of 28%.
Dr Byers said: “We have discovered that taking extra vitamins and minerals do more harm than good.”
He added that most people got their daily recommended doses of vitamins and minerals by eating healthy meals.
He said: “This is not to say that people need to be afraid of taking vitamins and minerals. If taken at the correct dosage multivitamins can be good for you.
“But there is no substitute for good food.”
Read more at THE MIRROR.