Vitamin B6, B12 supplements important for health of many Australians

24 August 2017

Return to Media Release Index

ASMI today expressed its support for B vitamin supplements when used according to label directions or the recommendation of a healthcare professional.

This statement comes in response to research1 based on data from more than 77,000 older patients in the USA by epidemiologists at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). The research suggested that the intake of high doses of B6 and B12 over a very long period of time was associated with increased lung cancer incidence in male smokers. This association was not seen in women, and people who had never smoked were excluded from the data analysis. Lead researcher Ted Brasky stressed that an increased incidence was only observed at doses well above those normally found in multivitamin supplements.

ASMI welcomes further research that contributes to building knowledge about and improving the practice of using well-known and commonly-used supplements. This month, research has been published suggesting that a form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide could prevent melanoma,2 and Australian researchers made headlines across the world with a study indicating that supplemental niacin - another form of vitamin B3 - could prevent miscarriages and birth defects.3

Also, Jennie Jackson, Lecturer in Human Nutrition and Dietetics at Glasgow Caledonian University, highlighted some of the limitations of the OSUCCC research in an article for The Conversation (UK), ' Vitamin B supplements linked to lung cancer - here's why you probably don't need to worry'. Ms Jackson pointed to the lack of a randomised controlled trial to confirm direct cause, the accuracy of recall among subjects who were asked to remember details about their diet and supplement use (including dosage and frequency) over the previous 10 years, and the use of survey methods that had not been validated for the study population.

At least two out of three Australian adults use some form of complementary medicine.4 While ASMI recommends that consumers aim to primarily source their recommended vitamin and mineral intake from a healthy, balanced diet, supplements can also play an important role for the 52% of Australian adults who do not eat the recommended intake of fruit or the 92% who do not eat the recommended intake of vegetables each day.5

Some population groups may especially struggle to get enough B12 from foods. These include people who eat few or no animal products, those with conditions such as  pernicious anaemia, some older people, and those with reduced stomach acid.

As with any medicine, ASMI urges consumers to consider whether a vitamin supplement is appropriate, to only take the recommended amount, to follow all label directions and to seek advice from a health professional if they have any concerns. 

-ENDS-

References

  1. Theodore M. Brasky, Emily White, Chi-Ling Chen. Long-Term, Supplemental, One-Carbon Metabolism-Related Vitamin B Use in Relation to Lung Cancer Risk in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2017.
  2. Minocha R, Damian DL, Halliday GM. Melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer chemoprevention: A role for nicotinamide? Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2017;00:1-8. 
  3. NAD Deficiency, Congenital Malformations, and Niacin Supplementation, N Engl J Med 2017; 377:544-552
  4. National Consumer Survey 2006,National Prescribing Service.
  5. Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12, ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.008. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.