Companies selling B vitamins have made all sorts of claims. They say that B vitamins can boost your health, metabolism, energy, and more. While this is true, it is only true if a person is deficient in B vitamins. The average person may not need an additional supplement.
Despite this, around 50% of Americans take dietary supplements, and the most common of these are B vitamins. Taking excessive amounts of B vitamins unnecessarily can be a waste of money, but it turns out it can be far worse than that --- studies are showing it might just be deadly.
Exploring The Evidence
While many companies make unfounded claims about their vitamins, the connection between B12 and cancer have been swirling around for roughly 10 years. It all began with a large 1998 trial conducted in Norway, in which over 6,000 people with heart disease were assigned to take either B vitamins or a placebo.
The deaths of the B vitamin group led researchers to conclude in a 2009 report that ingesting high doses of B12 and B9 (folic acid/folate) could raise your risk of cancer and overall mortality. The largest cancer increase was lung cancer.
The Washington Study
While the numbers of the Norway study were not huge, they were large enough to capture the attention of a pair of researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Their trial involved 77,000 people across Washington state taking different vitamins and supplements daily to see if they played any role in cancer risk. For men, B vitamins played a significant role. Daily B6 doubled the lung cancer risk for non-smoking males and tripled it for smokers. Smokers taking B12 had a quadrupled risk of lung cancer. No similar effect was found in women.
So, the take-away may be to steer the men in your life away from excessive B vitamin usage unless they are truly suffering from a medical deficiency --- something you should have a doctor confirm by requesting a blood test for micronutrient levels. Will this change the way you think about supplements? Tell us, we’d love to hear your story.