Did You Take Your Multivitamin Today?
Many of us in the healthcare field have preached for decades that people should not rely on vitamins in pill form to meet the recommended doses of vitamin intake. Instead, we’ve urged our patients to get their nutrients from the foods we eat.
Now, however, a certain population of women may have an important reason to take multivitamins. New research data, which were extracted from the Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trials and the Women’s Health Observational Study, show that older women with invasive breast cancer—cancer that has spread outside of the breast duct—may gain a new advantage from taking a multivitamin each day; in fact, these vitamins may reduce the risk that their breast cancer will recur.
That’s right. This research, recently published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, suggests that multivitamin/mineral supplements may help older women who develop breast cancer to survive their disease.
Multivitamin/mineral supplements are the most commonly consumed dietary supplements among adults in the U.S. They usually contain small amounts of 20 to 30 vitamins and minerals, often at levels reaching 100 percent of U.S Recommended Dietary Allowances or less. The manufacturers of these products recommend that people take one pill daily.
A comparison of those who took a multivitamin and those who didn’t
Fortunately, these two studies were large enough so that the results of this new vitamin-and-mineral research were valid.
During the extensive study period, 385 of the women diagnosed with breast cancer during the study were using supplements. The vast majority of these had been taking the supplements prior to being diagnosed. A comparison of mortality rates revealed that the women with invasive breast cancer who took multivitamins/mineral supplements were 30 percent less likely to die from their cancers than were the women with invasive breast cancers who hadn’t taken any supplements.
Could merely taking these supplements explain the difference in these statistics? Well, the researchers then also looked at all the other potential possibilities such as smoking history, race, ethnicity, age, depression, diet, alcohol use, physical activities, age at diagnosis of breast cancer, and diabetes. And after considering all these other factors with due diligence, the scientists concluded that the supplement usage was what made the difference in the mortality rates.
But you still must eat nutritious foods!
Now, here comes my regular caveat: Please don’t interpret these research results to mean that you can stop eating a healthy diet and rely solely on a supplement pill to assure that you are getting the nutrients you need. Instead, consider clipping a coupon for a multivitamin from the Sunday paper this week and start taking one, especially if you are over age 50, have had breast cancer, and have a chance of recurrence.
There isn’t research yet to determine if taking this pill prevents breast cancer in those not diagnosed, but research is certainly underway to try to decipher this as well.
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