August 2022

USPSTF Guidelines Grabbing Headlines

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently updated their guidelines on the use of vitamin, mineral, and multivitamin supplementation for the prevention of heart disease and cancer. While the evidence they discuss isn’t new, the updated recommendations are creating some buzz. Here’s what you should know.

The USPSTF is now recommending against the use of beta-carotene and vitamin E supplements for heart disease and cancer prevention. There’s no good scientific evidence that taking beta-carotene supplements helps prevent heart disease or cancer. And taking high doses of antioxidants such as beta-carotene might actually do more harm than good. Similarly, there’s no good evidence that taking vitamin E supplements prevents heart disease or cancer. It’s not clear if other single vitamins or minerals, or multivitamins, offer any benefits or if they could potentially cause harm.

Keep in mind that the concerns about beta-carotene aren’t new. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) found that the risk of lung cancer nearly doubled in former smokers taking a specific supplement that contained beta-carotene. And a recent follow-up study found that replacing the beta-carotene in that formulation with lutein/zeaxanthin may be a safer alternative. This updated formulation reduced the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) progression to advanced disease by 15% compared with the formulation containing beta-carotene, without increasing lung cancer risk.

We’ll keep you updated as new evidence emerges. For now, tell patients there’s no magic pill for heart disease or cancer prevention – and recommend skipping the beta-carotene and vitamin E supplements.

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