It’s natural to think that dietary supplements, derived from vitamins, minerals, herbs or plants, are good for you. Advertisements claim this to be true everywhere we look, but those claims aren’t always accurate. This inaccuracy is especially concerning for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Unfortunately, dietary supplements don’t share the same research requirements and safety regulations that medications do, and they are often self-prescribed without the advice of medical professionals. This can lead to uncertainty about their claims, potential side effects or interactions with other medications. Recent research challenges their claimed effectiveness in relation to cancer and shines a light on potential risks.
For instance, the American Institute for Cancer Research recently shared information related to vitamin D and calcium supplementation, once believed to promote colorectal health. In a five-year study of 2,259 patients with recently removed, precancerous colorectal polyps, 43 percent developed new growths regardless of vitamin D and calcium supplementation.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) acknowledges that the use of vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements during cancer treatment remains controversial, and points to emerging evidence suggesting that even modest use of dietary supplements during cancer treatment may be detrimental.
In addition, the New England Journal of Medicine published a paper that found an estimated 23,000 U.S. emergency room visits every year are due to adverse events related to dietary supplements, most commonly those related to weight loss or energy products.
Finally, because supplements are not scrutinized by regulating institutions, risk of ingesting suboptimal doses or possible contaminants such as heavy metals, microbes and pesticides must be considered.
If you or a loved one are undergoing cancer treatment, consider the following before taking dietary supplements:
Are you doing all you can nutrition-wise to maintain strength during cancer treatments to allow for optimal healing? Are you having difficulty with the side effects of treatment? Learn more in a one-on-one appointment with Doreen Berard, RD, LDN, a wellness/oncology dietitian at the Edward Cancer Center in Naperville. Call 630-527-3788.
Learn more about cancer care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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