Supplement warning: Vitamins B6 & B12 linked to increased risk of lung cancer warns study

With roughly 46 percent of adults in the UK reporting consumption of vitamin B6 and B12 as part of a regular multivitamin tablet, concerns may be raised to its link with an increased risk of lung cancer.

Men, particularly male smokers, appear to be more likely to develop lung cancer if they take high doses of vitamins B6 and B12, research suggests.

For men taking these vitamin supplements, the risk of lung cancer was nearly doubled.

For men who smoked, the risk was between three and four times higher, the study found.

“High-dose B6 and B12 supplements should not be taken for lung cancer prevention, especially in men, and they may cause harm in male smokers,” said study lead author and research assistant professor, Theodore Brasky. He is a research assistant professor at Ohio State University.

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The study involved researchers asking over 77,000 people how often they took these B vitamins.

The dosage, and their normal diet over the previous ten years was also taken into account.

After six years, the researchers checked in on the participants to see if they had developed lung cancer.

After controlling for many factors that are known to influence risk of cancer, the researchers reported a 30 percent increase in lung cancer risk associated with the use of vitamin B12 (taken as an individual vitamin) and a 40 percent increase in risk for those who took B6.

For men who took high doses from individual supplements for ten years, shockingly the risk of lung cancer almost doubled, and was higher still in men who smoked.

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“Men who took more than 55 micrograms per day of B12 had a 98 percent increased lung cancer risk relative to men who did not take B vitamins,” Brasky added.

He continued: “Men who smoked at the beginning of the study period and consumed high levels of the B vitamins were three to four times more likely to develop lung cancer.

“B6 is typically sold in 100 mg (milligram)tablets. B12 is often sold between 500 mcg (microgram) and 3,000 mcg tablets.

“In contrast, most multivitamins include 100 percent of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance, which is under 2mg per day for B6 and 2.4mcg per day for B12.

“People should really ask themselves if they need over 1,200 times the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of a substance.”

The potential role of B vitamins in relation to cancer risk has been reported previously, said the National Library of Health.

It added: “Two large randomised controlled trials of B vitamin supplementation in Norway identified an increased risk for overall cancer among subjects who received both vitamin B12 and B9 (folate), a result that was primarily driven by lung cancer.

“More recently the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort studyreported increased lung cancer risks among men who used high amounts of vitamin B12 and B6 supplementation.”

The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that, in order to prevent cancer, aiming to meet nutritional needs via a diet alone is key rather than simply relying on supplements.

Foods rich in vitamin B6 and B12 include:

  • Meat such as pork, beef, etc.
  • Poultry such as chicken, turkey, etc.
  • Fish such as tuna, salmon, etc.

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