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Taking These Supplements? Task Force Says Stop Now

You shouldn't regularly take two supplements, no matter what.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Supplements are a multibillion-dollar-and-growing industry, and many of us have made them part of our daily routine. More than half of Americans take at least one supplement daily. The reasons vary: Filling in nutritional gaps and protecting against cancer and heart disease are some of the most common. But a group of experts has just recommended that you shouldn't regularly take two supplements, no matter what. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E Not Recommended

calcium pills

On June 21, the United States Protective Task Force (USPTF) officially recommended against taking beta-carotene or vitamin E in supplement form. "The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that the harms of beta carotene supplementation outweigh the benefits for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer," the experts wrote. "The USPSTF also concludes with moderate certainty that there is no net benefit of supplementation with vitamin E for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer."


Beta-Carotene: What's the Harm?

The task force cited studies that indicate beta-carotene supplementation may increase the chances of lung cancer in people who are already at higher risk (such as people who smoke or have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace) and a pooled analysis of five studies, which found a "statistically significant increased risk for cardiovascular disease mortality" in people who took beta-carotene supplements after four to 12 years of follow-up.


Vitamin E: What the Experts Say

Shot of woman nutritionist doctor writes the medical prescription for a correct diet on a desk with fruits, pills and supplements.

In terms of vitamin E, the task force cited nine randomized controlled trials that found "no benefit associated with vitamin E use on all-cause mortality" or cardiovascular disease or mortality. Additionally: "Pooled analyses also showed no benefit associated with vitamin E use on incidence of or mortality from any cancer," the experts said.


What Is Beta-Carotene?


Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, a natural plant chemical that's one of several red, orange and purple pigments found in fruits and vegetables. It is found in carrots, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, and apricots. 

Fruits and vegetables are excellent for your health, and strong evidence shows that consuming several helpings a day reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, just to name a few serious health conditions. But isolating certain chemicals from fruits and vegetables in supplement form is a different story—studies like the ones cited by the USPTF have found they can actually be harmful. 


"Pills Are Not a Shortcut"

Woman is holding a mobile phone and a bottle of pills

The best course is to eat a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and other nutritious whole foods. "Pills are not a shortcut to better health and the prevention of chronic diseases," warned Larry Appel, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research. "Other nutrition recommendations have much stronger evidence of benefits—eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar you eat."

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael