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November 2013

U.S. Preventative Services Task Force Updates Vitamin Recommendations

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently published new draft recommendations on the use of vitamin and mineral supplements.

The draft recommendations apply to healthy people who do not have nutritional deficiencies. The information focuses specifically on products that are used for the prevention of heart disease and cancer, at doses that do not exceed tolerable upper intake levels.

These new draft recommendations issued by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force are based on existing science. They are generally consistent with information provided in's Product Reviews.

In summary, the recommendations stated that supplementation with either beta-carotene or vitamin E lacks evidence of benefit. Although vitamin E does not pose a risk of harm, beta-carotene has been found to increase the likelihood of developing lung cancer in people who are at risk for lung cancer.

The task force's recommendations stated that for supplementation with other single vitamins, minerals, pairs, and multivitamins, there is a lack of evidence at this time to make a firm conclusion on whether they offer benefit or a risk of harm. More research is needed in this area.

According to the task force, excessive doses of supplementation above tolerable upper intake levels have been linked to evidence of harm. This has been found for supplements such as vitamin A and vitamin D.

The recent draft recommendations are an update on ones that the task force provided in 2003 on vitamin supplementation for the prevention of heart disease or cancer. At that time, the task force concluded that evidence was lacking to support the use of supplements of vitamins A, C, or E; multivitamins that contain folic acid; or antioxidant combinations for the prevention of heart disease or cancer. The task force also recommended against the use of beta-carotene supplements, either alone or in combination, for the prevention of heart disease or cancer.

In the current recommendation, the task force considered evidence on additional nutrient supplements, including vitamin D, calcium, selenium, and folic acid, for the primary prevention of cancer and heart disease. New evidence on the use of vitamin E has increased the task force's certainty about the vitamin's lack of effectiveness in preventing these conditions.

For more information about vitamins A, D, or E, beta-carotene, calcium, folic acid, or selenium, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

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