Vitamin supplements: current research on their role in lifestyle diseases

You have most likely come across articles or news items claiming that a certain vitamin supplement. For example, it may say that vitamin D helps to better control  diabetes. Many companies are marketing their products using these claims!

But, once you read this post you will find, that in most of these cases, research is not conclusive enough. Therefore expert health agencies do not recommend these supplements in management of lifestyle diseases, at least not yet!

Read below to know more!

Current Research on the use of Vitamin A supplement for diseases

Cancer: Role of vitamin A supplements have been investigated in prostate and lung cancer, but no conclusions are available so far

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): It is a disorder of the eye which leads to progressive blindness. In moderate cases of AMD or in those with advanced AMD in one eye, a supplement containing Beta carotene, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Zinc and Copper was found to reduce the risk of development of severe disease

Current research on the use of vitamin C supplements for diseases

Current research on vitamin C is focused on its protective function in the following conditions:

  • Common cold
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Cancer prevention
  • Cancer treatment
  • Eye diseases such as AMD and cataract

Vitamin C supplements (in doses higher than 200 mg/day) can reduce the chances of catching a cold, especially in smokers, people doing heavy activity and elderly people.  But after the onset of cold, vitamin C supplements do not reduce the duration or severity of the cold

Results from most clinical trials suggest that modest vitamin C supplementation alone or with other nutrients offers no benefit in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases or cataract

Research suggests a promising role of high dose injected vitamin C in treatment of some cancers, but not of oral intake

Current Research on use of Vitamin D supplement for diseases

Current research on vitamin D is focused on is protective properties in the following positions:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes type 1 and 2 and glucose intolerance
  • High blood pressure
  • Multiple sclerosis

However, no conclusive evidence is available currently. No recommendations for vitamin D supplements in order to manage these diseases are made

Current Research on use of Vitamins of B complex supplement for diseases

Vitamins of B complex are soluble in water and in general are well tolerated at high doses also. Therefore, no Upper Limits (ULs) are there for B1, B2 and B12 oral intake

Current research on role of various vitamin of B complex is focused on the potentially positive impact  on life style diseases, cancers etc.

Below is the summary of the research so far:

Folate and Vitamin B12, alone or as a vitamin B complex supplement (in doses much higher than the usual multivitamin supplement) have been reported to have protective effect on:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Cancers such as colon cancer and a host of others
  • Dementia and mental decline including
  • Depression
  • Neural Tube Defect (NTD) and potentially other birth defects in newborns (folate)

But evidence is inconclusive and hence currently no indications and dosage of supplementation with folate or vitamin B12 exist for any of these except for NTD. Women in reproductive age, especially if they plan to have children soon should get at least 400 mcg of folate supplement every day for 1-3 months

The protective role of thiamine is being investigated for:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Congestive heart failure

But evidence is inconclusive and there is no guideline for use and dosage of thiamine supplementation in these diseases

Probiotics, omega 3 supplements such as fish oil, fiber and phytosterol supplements have been recommended in special populations, to know more, go to: ‘Supplements recommended for special populations’

CHECK OUT: Our references for recommendations on supplements