USPSTF Draft Recommends Against Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E to Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease

November 12, 2013 04:27 pm News Staff
[Supplement Facts on Bottle]

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a draft recommendation( against using beta-carotene or vitamin E supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cancer.

The USPSTF also stated that evidence currently is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of using multivitamins or single- or paired-nutrient supplements (with the exception of beta-carotene and vitamin E) for the prevention of CVD or cancer.

Task Force Lists Research Gaps in Preventive Care

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) highlighted  high-priority evidence gaps in research on preventive care for older adults in its annual report( to Congress. Research in the following areas is needed:

  • screening for cognitive impairment and dementia,
  • screening for physical and mental well-being,
  • preventing falls and fractures,
  • screening for vision and hearing problems, and
  • avoiding the unintended harms of medical procedures and testing.

"In general, the task force found that there is not enough evidence to determine whether you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer by taking single or paired nutrients or a multivitamin," USPSTF Co-vice Chair Michael LeFevre, M.D., M.S.P.H., said in a media statement provided by the task force. "However, there were two major exceptions: beta-carotene and vitamin E, both of which clearly do not help prevent these diseases."

Two large trials found a small, borderline-significant benefit from multivitamin supplements on cancer in men only and no effect on CVD, the task force noted in its evidence review( In addition, high-quality studies of single- and paired-nutrient supplements (e.g., vitamins A, C, or D; folic acid; selenium; or calcium) were scant and showed no clear evidence of benefit or harm.

The draft recommendations will be open for public comment( until Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. EST.

The AAFP is reviewing the draft recommendations and will update its own 2003 vitamin supplementation recommendations after the USPSTF publishes its final conclusions in 2014.