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Vitamin Supplements for Cancer

Vitamin Supplements for Cancer

About vitamin supplements

Vitamin supplement, also known as a multivitamin, is a nutritional supplement that comprises one or more vitamins, dietary minerals, and occasionally, additional components such as herbs. They come in a variety of formulations, such as pills, capsules, chewable candies, powders, and liquids.

Vitamin supplements may have little or no benefit for those who consume a balanced diet. A nutritious, well-rounded diet, instead of a course of vitamin supplements, appears to be the key to optimum health. Food is known to be the safest and most effective approach to obtain appropriate vitamin and mineral intake (Woodside et al., 2005).

More insights on vitamins

To understand that foods can provide all the necessary vitamins essential for our body, it is important to know about the different types of vitamins, their functions, deficiency diseases, and most importantly, their food sources.

Vitamins are organic molecules that people require in little amounts. They are compounds that our bodies require to grow and function properly. Most vitamins must be obtained from food since the body either does not manufacture them or generates only a small amount. Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K are among them, and so are the B vitamins. The best approach to get adequate vitamins is to eat a diversified, well-balanced diet.

The vitamins are broadly classified into two categories:

  1. Water-soluble vitamins

The human body neither generates water-soluble vitamins nor does it store them. Because they cannot be retained in the body, excess amounts are eliminated through urine.

As a result, people need water-soluble vitamins more regularly than fat-soluble ones. They get dissolved in water and are therefore known as water-soluble vitamins.

Types of water-soluble vitamins include all the B vitamins as well as vitamin C.

  1. Vitamin B1. It is also known as thiamine. It is required for the production of numerous enzymes. It also aids in the conversion of carbohydrates into energy by the body's cells. Thiamine deficiency may cause beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Good sources of vitamin B1 are cereal grains, brown rice, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, yeast, oranges, and eggs.

  1. Vitamin B2. It is also known as riboflavin. It is required for the growth and maintenance of red blood cells as well as for the metabolization of food. Riboflavin deficiency may cause fissures in the mouth and inflammation of lips.

Good sources include green beans, eggs, bananas, asparagus, okra, cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt.

  1. Vitamin B3. It is also known as niacin or niacinamide. It is required by the body for cell growth and function. It also aids in the maintenance of healthy skin and nerves. Niacin deficiency can lead to pellagra, a condition that causes diarrhea, skin abnormalities, and digestive discomfort.

Good sources include milk, eggs, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and lentils.

  1. Vitamin B5. It is also known as pantothenic acid. It is required for the production of energy and hormones. Symptoms of deficiency include paresthesia, which is a tingling or prickling sensation in the hands and legs.

Good sources include broccoli, avocado, whole grains, yogurt, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, milk, and sunflower seeds.

  1. Vitamin B6. It is also known as pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal. It also contributes to the production of red blood cells. It also keeps the brain functioning properly.

Deficiency of vitamin B6 may lead to peripheral neuropathy and anemia.

Good sources include chickpeas, bananas, nuts, oats, wheat germ, and squash.

  1. Vitamin B7. It is also known as biotin. It allows the body to digest proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. It also aids in the formation of keratin, a structural protein found in the skin, hair, and nails. The deficiency of vitamin B7 may lead to dermatitis and inflammation of the intestines.

Good sources include broccoli, spinach, avocado, nuts, eggs, and cheese.

  1. Vitamin B9. It is also known as folic acid and folate. It is used for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. It is also responsible for tissue growth and cell function. The deficiency of folate can influence the nervous system of the fetus of pregnant women. Low folate levels have been linked to birth abnormalities such as spina bifida.

Good sources include dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, sunflower seeds, whole grains, fresh fruits, and fruit juices.

  1. Vitamin B12. It is also known as cyanocobalamin. It is crucial for the proper functioning of the nervous system. It also contributes to the formation of red blood cells. The deficiency of vitamin B12 may lead to neurological disorders as well as various types of anemia.

Good sources include fish, meat, eggs, milk and its products, fortified cereals, and fortified soy products.

  1. Vitamin C. It is also known as ascorbic acid. It aids in the development of collagen and also contributes to wound healing and bone growth. It also helps to build blood vessels, boosts the immune system, and aids in iron absorption. It also enhances the health of the teeth and gums. Deficiency of vitamin C may lead to scurvy, a disease that causes bleeding gums, tooth loss, and poor tissue growth and wound healing.

Good sources include citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, guavas, and tomatoes.

  1. Fat-soluble vitamins.

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in fat cells and the liver. Dietary fats aid the body's absorption of fat-soluble vitamins via the digestive tract. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins.

  1. Vitamin A. It aids in the formation and maintenance of healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin. It is also necessary for good eye health. Deficiency of vitamin A may lead to night blindness and keratomalacia, a condition in which the clear front layer of the eye becomes dry and hazy.

Good sources include carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach, milk, red and deep-yellow colored fruits and vegetables, eggs, and milk.

  1. Vitamin D. It is required for healthy bone mineralization. Vitamin D also aids in the absorption of calcium by the body. The deficiency of vitamin D may cause rickets and osteomalacia.

The best source of vitamin D is exposure to UVB rays of the sun which triggers the formation of vitamin D inside the body. Dietary sources include fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks, and fortified food products.

  1. Vitamin E. Its antioxidant activity aids in the prevention of oxidative stress, which further prevents inflammation that can lead to various diseases, including cancer. Although the deficiency is rare, it can cause hemolytic anemia in babies. This disorder destroys blood cells.

Good sources of vitamin E are nuts, vegetable oils, wheat germ, kiwis, almonds, eggs, and leafy green vegetables.

  1. Vitamin K. It is an essential component required for blood clotting. The deficiency of vitamin K may lead to bleeding diathesis.

Sources of vitamin K are green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, mustard greens and broccoli, cereal grains, and vegetable oils.

As it is clear from above, there is no need to take vitamin supplements if a well-balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables is consumed regularly by a healthy person.

Who needs vitamin supplements?

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and heart-healthy fats should offer the majority of the elements required for good health. However, not everyone can maintain a healthy diet. When it comes to specific vitamins and minerals, some people may not get enough of them.

Fortified foods and supplements may be acceptable in some situations, such as during pregnancy, for those on restricted diets, and people with certain health conditions. The following groups are at a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies and may require vitamin supplements:

  1. Pregnancy. Getting enough folate is especially crucial for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant because enough folate can help reduce the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects. Folate and other essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, iron, and calcium are available in the form of prenatal multivitamins or simple multivitamins. It is usually recommended for pregnant women to take vitamin supplements as their nutritional requirements increase during pregnancy.
  2. Old age. For a variety of reasons, the elderly are at risk of inadequate food intake, including difficulties digesting and swallowing food, as well as disagreeable taste changes produced by many drugs. They also struggle to absorb vitamin B12 from their diet. It is recommended that adults over the age of 50 consume vitamin B12-fortified meals or take vitamin B12 pills, which are more easily absorbed than dietary sources (Baik & Russell, 1999).
  3. Malabsorption conditions. Any disorder that interferes with normal digestion increases the risk of poor nutrient absorption. Some examples are:
  • Diseases such as celiac, ulcerative colitis, and cystic fibrosis are examples. The deficiency of magnesium (Chaudhary et al., 2010) and other nutritional deficiencies are more common in people with type 2 diabetes (Walker, 2007).
  • Treatments of diseases like cancer can cause nutrient deficiencies due to inadequate intake or malabsorption of nutrients.
  • Surgeries that involve the removal of sections of digestive organs, such as a gastric bypass for weight loss or a Whipple treatment that involves many digestive organs.
  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea from illnesses such as cancer or cancer treatment can prevent nutrients from being absorbed.
  • Alcoholism can impair nutrient absorption, particularly certain B vitamins and vitamin C.
  1. Restrictive diets. Restricted diets, such as vegan diets, gluten-free diets, and some weight-loss programs, make it more difficult to meet all of your nutritional needs. For example, vitamin B12 is found predominantly in animal sources, so people who eat a plant-based diet are more likely to be deficient in this vitamin. They could also be deficient in calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids (Craig, 2010).

However, those diets do not always demand multivitamin supplementation, as nutritional deficiencies can be remedied by improved meal planning or less restrictive variants of the diet.

  1. Certain medications. Some diuretics, which are often used to treat high blood pressure, can deplete the body's reserves of magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Proton pump inhibitors, which are commonly used to treat acid reflux and heartburn, can limit the absorption of vitamin B12, as well as calcium and magnesium. Levodopa and carbidopa, which are used to treat Parkinson's disease, can impair the absorption of B vitamins such as folate, B6, and B12.

Vitamin supplements for cancer patients

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you may be planning on taking vitamins and supplements. Apart from a healthy diet for cancer patients on chemo and radiation therapy, vitamin supplements, multivitamins, herbs, and extracts are increasingly being used in integrative medicine to:

  • Assist in reducing the adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • Aid in strengthening the immune system.

Many supplements may interact with your cancer therapy; therefore, never take anything without first consulting with your oncologist and treatment team. Integrative medicine may be available at your cancer therapy center or hospital. If you want to discover what herbs, teas, or nutritional supplements can help you stay strong and cope with therapy side effects, this is a wonderful place to begin.

Vitamin D is currently one of the most researched supplements for cancer prevention and treatment. Researchers discovered that vitamin D deficiency was more prevalent among women with breast cancer in a report presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The study also discovered that a lack of vitamin D may increase the chance of breast cancer spreading and mortality from the disease.

Regardless of how harmless you believe a vitamin supplement is, consult your doctor about potential interactions with your other medications.


It is preferable not to take multivitamins or vitamin supplements to compensate for a poor diet. Eating a well-balanced diet that contains fresh, whole foods is significantly more likely to result in long-term good health.

It is critical to note that a vitamin supplement cannot replace a healthy, well-balanced diet. A multivitamin's principal goal is to cover nutritional gaps, and it only supplies a slight bit of the wide variety of beneficial nutrients and chemicals naturally contained in a diet. It cannot provide fiber or the flavor and satisfaction of meals that are essential to a healthy diet. But on the other hand, vitamin supplements can play a significant role when nutritional needs are not supplied only through diet.

When considering the use of vitamin supplements or multivitamins, people should take precautions. Caution is required since the relationship between claims of efficacy and actual benefits might differ significantly. Furthermore, several vitamins and minerals might be dangerous if consumed in large quantities. Some vitamins may potentially have a negative interaction with a person's routine medicines.

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