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Life Lessons: Dangers of vitamin B supplements

VIDEO: Life Lessons: Dangers of...

​New​ ​research​ ​suggests​ ​long-term,​ ​high-dose​ ​supplementation​ ​with​ ​vitamins​ ​B6 and​ ​B12​ ​—​ ​long​ ​touted​ ​by​ ​the​ ​vitamin​ ​industry​ ​for​ ​increasing​ ​energy​ ​and​ ​improving​ ​metabolism​ ​—​ ​is associated​ ​with​ ​a​ ​two-​ ​to​ ​four-fold​ ​increased​ ​lung​ ​cancer​ ​risk​ ​in​ ​men​ ​relative​ ​to​ ​non-users.

Risk​ ​was​ ​further​ ​elevated​ ​in​ ​male​ ​smokers​ ​taking​ ​more​ ​than​ ​20​ ​mg​ ​of​ ​B6​ ​or​ ​55​ ​micrograms​ ​of​ ​B12​ ​a day​ ​for​ 10​ ​years.​ Male​ ​smokers​ ​taking​ ​B6​ ​at​ ​this​ ​dose​ ​were​ ​three​ ​times​ ​more​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​lung cancer.​ ​Male​ ​smokers​ ​taking​ ​B12​ ​at​ ​such​ ​doses​ ​were​ ​approximately​ ​four​ ​times​ ​more​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​develop the​ ​disease​ ​compared​ ​to​ ​non-users.

Epidemiologists​ ​from​ ​​The​ ​Ohio​ ​State​ ​University​ ​Comprehensive​ ​Cancer​ ​Center​ ​–​ ​Arthur​ ​G.​ ​James Cancer​ ​Hospital​ ​and​ ​Richard​ ​J.​ ​Solove​ ​Research​ ​Institute​​,​ the ​Fred​ ​Hutchinson Cancer​ ​Research​ ​Center​ ​and​ ​National​ ​Taiwan​ ​University​ ​report​ ​their​ ​findings​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Aug.​ ​22,​ ​2017, issue​ ​of​ ​the​ ​​Journal of Clinical Oncology.

This​ ​is​ ​the​ ​first​ ​prospective,​ ​observational​ ​study​ ​to​ ​look​ ​at​ ​the​ ​effects​ ​of​ ​long-term​ ​high-dose​ ​B6 or B12 supplement​ ​use​ ​and​ ​lung​ ​cancer​ ​risk.​ ​These​ ​supplements​ ​have​ ​been​ ​broadly​ ​thought​ ​to​ ​reduce cancer​ ​risk.

For​ ​this​ ​study,​ ​​Theodore​ ​Brasky​,​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Ohio State cancer center,​ ​and​ ​colleagues​ ​analyzed​ ​data​ ​from more​ ​than​ ​77,000​ ​patients​ ​participants​ ​in​ ​the​ ​VITamins​ ​And​ ​Lifestyle​ ​(VITAL)​ ​cohort​ ​study,​ ​a long-term​ ​prospective​ ​observational​ ​study​ ​designed​ ​to​ ​evaluate​ ​vitamin​ ​and​ ​other​ ​mineral supplements​ ​in​ ​relation​ ​to​ ​cancer​ ​risk.​ ​All​ ​participants​ ​were​ ​between​ ​50​ ​and​ ​76​ years old and ​were​ ​recruited​ ​in the​ ​state​ ​of​ ​Washington​ ​between​ ​the​ ​years​ ​2000​ ​and​ ​2002. 

Upon​ ​enrolling​ ​in​ ​the​ ​study,​ ​participants​ ​reported​ ​information​ ​to​ ​researchers​ ​about​ ​vitamin​ B ​usage over​ ​the​ ​past​ ​10​ ​years.​ ​This​ ​included​ ​dosage​ ​information​ ​–​ ​a​ ​critical​ ​but​ ​often​ ​missing​ ​detail​ ​needed for​ ​strong​ ​risk​ ​assessment​ ​and​ ​association​ ​research.

For​ ​this​ ​new​ ​analysis,​ ​researchers​ ​used​ ​statistical​ ​techniques​ ​to​ ​adjust​ ​for​ ​numerous​ ​factors, including personal​ ​smoking​ ​history,​ ​age,​ ​race,​ ​education,​ ​body​ ​size,​ ​alcohol​ ​consumption,​ ​personal history​ ​of​ ​cancer​ ​or​ ​chronic​ ​lung​ ​disease,​ ​family​ ​history​ ​of​ ​lung​ ​cancer​ ​and​ ​use​ ​of​ ​anti-inflammatory drugs.

“This​ ​sets​ ​all​ ​of​ ​these​ ​other​ ​influencing​ ​factors​ ​as​ ​equal,​ ​so​ ​we​ ​are​ ​left​ ​with​ ​a​ ​less​ ​confounded​ ​effect of​ ​long-term​ ​B6​ ​and​ ​B12​ ​super-supplementation,”​ ​Brasky said.​ ​“Our​ ​data​ ​shows​ ​that​ ​taking​ ​high doses​ ​of​ ​B6​ ​and​ ​B12​ ​over​ ​a​ ​very​ ​long​ ​period​ ​of​ ​time​ ​could​ ​contribute​ ​to​ ​lung​ ​cancer​ ​incidence​ ​rates​ ​in male​ ​smokers.​ This​ ​is​ ​certainly​ ​a​ ​concern​ ​worthy​ ​of​ ​further​ ​evaluation.”

Brasky​ ​notes​ ​these​ ​findings​ ​relate​ ​to​ ​doses​ ​that​ ​are​ ​well​ ​above​ ​those​ ​from​ ​taking​ ​a​ ​multivitamin​ ​every day​ ​for​ ​10​ ​years.

“These​ ​are​ ​doses​ ​that​ ​can​ ​only​ ​be​ ​obtained​ ​from​ ​taking​ ​high-dose​ ​B​ ​vitamin​ ​supplements,​ ​and​ ​these supplements​ ​are​ ​many​ ​times​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​recommended​ dietary​ ​allowance,”​ ​he​ ​said.

Two​ ​additional​ ​studies​ ​are​ ​underway​ ​at​ ​Ohio State ​to​ ​further​ ​evaluate​ ​high​ ​dose, long-term​ ​B6​ ​and​ ​B12​ ​supplementation​ ​and​ ​lung​ ​cancer​ ​risk.​ ​One​ ​study​ ​will​ ​examine​ ​associations​ ​in post-menopausal​ ​women​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​confirm​ ​the​ ​current​ ​finding​ ​of​ ​no​ ​elevated​ ​risk​ ​in​ ​women.​

The second​ ​will​ ​examine​ ​B6 and B12​ ​high​ ​dose,​ ​long-term​ ​supplementation​ ​in​ ​a​ ​second​ ​large​ ​prospective study​ ​of​ ​men​ ​in​ ​an​ ​effort​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​whether​ ​the​ ​increases​ ​risk​ ​observed​ ​in​ ​the​ ​current​ ​study​ ​can​ ​be replicated.

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