Episode 11

Vitamins and Supplements for Prevention of Heart Disease and Cancer

Published on: 5th July, 2022


The US Preventative Task Force updated their recent recommendations about vitamins and supplements in The Journal of the American Medical Association - reference here.

Their conclusion was: "Conclusions and Relevance Vitamin and mineral supplementation was associated with little or no benefit in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and death, with the exception of a small benefit for cancer incidence with multivitamin use. Beta carotene was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and other harmful outcomes in persons at high risk of lung cancer."

We have published about how misleading labels of supplements are before - click here.

The appeal of vitamins and supplements is the ability to extract the vital chemicals (like vital amines) antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory ingredients, place them into a pill so you can avoid having a healthy diet. Trust me, a healthy diet is clinically proven to work but it is a lot easier to eat a burger and pop a pill than to remember to eat some vegetables (I like Habit Burger).

[caption id="attachment_9745" align="aligncenter" width="640"]V Yes, I do love a good burger - Habit is my favorite[/caption]

But let's go back in history for a second and let you know that surgeons love vitamins. If you haven't listened to one of my favorite stories- listen to this about the first vitamin - click here. And let us not forget that the first evidence based study in the history showed that citrus fruits prevented scurvy - who was that person that showed that - was it a "nutritionist" or was it a surgeon? Oh yes, it was Dr. James Lind - a surgeon.

Why the appeal of vitamins, besides my fantasy about eating burgers and popping a pill?

First there is the "natural" fallacy - I don't know, I think natural is more eating fruits and vegetables than pills. People tend to think of vitamins as "good" or healthy, and they are. They seem to think of a vitamin as "natural" even though they were brought to us from the golden age of biochemistry. It is clear that the vitamin and supplement companies have taken advantage of that and use terms like "support gut health" or "support immune function" or "good for cardiovascular health, " - even if those statements are meaningless.

Second, it is easier to think of things we believe we understand. Heart disease and cancer are complex topics (not that the true chemistry of vitamins aren't but they seem easy). We want to make things easy - like take vitamins and supplements for prevention or cure of cancer or heart disease, because if we start talking about scary statins or chemotherapy not only are there real side-effects but bad press. Of course with vitamins and supplements there can be real side effects - check here. My aunt's son, a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, died after taking a supplement that was to help him be "fit."

But the simple truth is this: however the polychemistry there is in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, as well as balancing dairy, meats, fats and alcohol has proven effect - we call that the Mediterranean Diet (for more see here)

[caption id="attachment_9746" align="aligncenter" width="640"]i Instead of vitamins and supplements from a pill - eat this[/caption]

For whatever reason, eating a Mediterranean Diet or DASH diet continue to be the proven way to maintain your health.



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North America dietary supplements market report, 2021-2028. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/north-america-dietary-supplements-market


Arnett DK, Blumenthal RS, Albert MA, et al 2019 ACC/AHA guideline on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2019;140(11). doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000678Google ScholarCrossref


Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality-a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol. 2017;46(3):1029-1056. doi:10.1093/ije/dyw319PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref


Bailey RL, Gahche JJ, Miller PE, Thomas PR, Dwyer JT. Why US adults use dietary supplements. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(5):355-361. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2299

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Alissa EM, Ferns GA. Dietary fruits and vegetables and cardiovascular diseases risk. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(9):1950-1962. doi:10.1080/10408398.2015.1040487PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref


Bibbins-Domingo K, Grossman DC, Curry SJ, et al; US Preventive Services Task Force. Folic acid supplementation for the prevention of neural tube defects: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2017;317(2):183-189. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.19438

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American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics. Anemia in pregnancy: ACOG Practice Bulletin, Number 233. Obstet Gynecol. 2021;138(2):e55-e64. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000004477PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref


US Preventive Services Task Force. Vitamin, mineral, and multivitamin supplementation to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. Published June 21, 2022. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.8970

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Gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-bulletin/articles/2020/06/gestational-hypertension-and-preeclampsia


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Tarn DM, Karlamangla A, Coulter ID, et al. A cross-sectional study of provider and patient characteristics associated with outpatient disclosures of dietary supplement use. Patient Educ Couns. 2015;98(7):830-836. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2015.03.020PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref


Liss DT, Uchida T, Wilkes CL, Radakrishnan A, Linder JA. General health checks in adult primary care: a review. JAMA. 2021;325(22):2294-2306. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.6524

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US Preventive Services Task Force. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/

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About the Podcast

Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson
Learn more about what you put in your mouth.
Fork U(niversity)
Not everything you put in your mouth is good for you.

There’s a lot of medical information thrown around out there. How are you to know what information you can trust, and what’s just plain old quackery? You can’t rely on your own “google fu”. You can’t count on quality medical advice from Facebook. You need a doctor in your corner.

On each episode of Your Doctor’s Orders, Dr. Terry Simpson will cut through the clutter and noise that always seems to follow the latest medical news. He has the unique perspective of a surgeon who has spent years doing molecular virology research and as a skeptic with academic credentials. He’ll help you develop the critical thinking skills so you can recognize evidence-based medicine, busting myths along the way.

The most common medical myths are often disguised as seemingly harmless “food as medicine”. By offering their own brand of medicine via foods, These hucksters are trying to practice medicine without a license. And though they’ll claim “nutrition is not taught in medical schools”, it turns out that’s a myth too. In fact, there’s an entire medical subspecialty called Culinary Medicine, and Dr. Simpson is certified as a Culinary Medicine Specialist.

Where today's nutritional advice is the realm of hucksters, Dr. Simpson is taking it back to the realm of science.

About your host

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Terry Simpson

Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. Until he found he liked people more than petri dishes. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2018 and 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.”