Trending Clinical Topics for July 2019

Ryan Syrek


July 26, 2019

Trending Clinical Topic of the Week (July 13-19): Vitamin Supplements

As the old saying goes, "There is no such thing as bad publicity." Vitamin supplements rode a recent tsunami of negative exposure to become this week's top trending clinical topic. The AARP Global Council on Brain Health released a report that strongly suggested that adults over 50 years should reconsider using supplements of any kind to protect or enhance brain health. The analysis included evidence in peer-reviewed journals that focused on the eight B vitamins, vitamins D and E, and other products marketed as having brain health benefits, including omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, and caffeine. No scientific evidence was found to support the use of any supplement to prevent, slow, reverse, or stop cognitive decline.

A separate meta-analysis examining the role of vitamin D supplementation in preventing future cardiovascular events also found no support. Although vitamin D may be indicated for other conditions—such as prevention of osteoporosis, osteomalacia, and chronic kidney disease—vitamin D supplementation did not protect against cardiovascular disease, including myocardial infarction and stroke. These findings were supported by a broader meta-analysis that used data exclusively from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Researchers examined 16 different nutritional supplements used by nearly a million participants from 277 RCTs and found no strong evidence to support any supplement use in warding off cardiovascular disease or achieving longer life.

In potentially more distressing news, a mouse study found that vitamin E and other antioxidants promote metastasis in lung cancer. Although this was an animal study, the implications from this research are that taking antioxidants to prevent cancer or after a cancer diagnosis may be unwarranted and possibly harmful. Combined, these findings have prompted some to advise patients to "save their money" and avoid supplements unless specifically indicated, and they have helped make vitamins this week's top trending clinical topic.

Test your knowledge with this short quiz on vitamins.


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