Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Vitamins and Colon Health


A few weeks ago, a young patient came to my office complaining of pain in his back and weakness in one hand. After a series of diagnostic testing, he was found to have evidence of colon cancer which had spread not only to his spine, but, unfortunately, to his brain as well.

I am sorry to say this is not a rare occurrence. In 2018, there were 101,420 new cases of Americans diagnosed with colon cancer and about 51,020 people are expected to die in 2109. In the United States about one out of every seventeen people will eventually develop colon/rectal cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, colon/rectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer of men in the United States and the second most common cause of death, trailing only lung cancer.

There are multiple factors that may be involved in the development of colon/rectal cancer. There is no question that there is a genetic predisposition. Whether diet plays a role in the development of this cancer is subject to some debate. There have been studies indicating that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, probiotics and fiber can decrease the risk of colon cancer. Obesity has been identified as a risk factor for colon cancer along with smoking.

I was extremely encouraged to see a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology last week concerning the benefits of vitamins for colon/rectal cancer. There has been an ongoing study in this country for the last twenty years through Harvard.

The study involved approximately 145,000 predominantly white, middle-aged or elderly adults. In 1982, these individuals were surveyed regarding multi-vitamin use and then reassessed in 1992 regarding current use of multi-vitamins. The individuals were then followed over the next five years, up to 1997.

During that time, approximately 800 people developed colon/rectal cancer. After adjusting for “health conscious” behaviors, those participants who were regular multi-vitamin users ten years before the start of the study (in 1992) had an approximately 30% decreased risk of developing colon/rectal cancer compared to the other groups.

Those individuals who had only recently begun taking multi-vitamins did not have an immediate reduced risk of cancer. This makes total sense. Like other degenerative disorders, cancer frequently develops over many months to years. Only by having the protection of continual use of multi-vitamins could there be any long lasting benefit at reducing such disorders. For example, in another well-known study the antioxidant selenium in a special form called selenomethionine at 200 mcg per day reduced overall cancer incidence by 37% and overall mortality by 50%. Based on multiple medical studies, it would appear that many other antioxidants may also be beneficial in reducing cancer risks.


People frequently contact me asking advice about multi-vitamins. Look for ingredients such as L-OptiZinc, ChromeMate, Ester-C, etc. and look for the highest quality and best standardized nutrients available.

The typical supermarket once-a-day vitamins contain the cheapest quality nutrients at the absolute minimal levels providing essentially no therapeutic benefit for most health issues.

Furthermore, the typical once-a-day vitamins do not offer the more expensive nutrients such as coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extract, lutein, green tea, etc. Even if you see these important nutrients within the typical once-a-day, the amounts are so small that they do not have a therapeutic benefit whatsoever.

I also recommend supplements that contain nutrients that promote healthy colon function. Fiber supplements that contain probiotics which help feed and colonize the friendly bacteria in the GI tract, and also the best fiber sources (oat bran and apple pectin). DHA and other fish oil products as well as eating fish is recommended. Try to look for a supplement that is of pharmaceutical grade fish oil made by molecular distillation so it contains no heavy metals.

References & Further Reading:


  1. Mabel Allison

    Staying current with the latest nutritional news can be challenging at best, particularly when it seems new items pop up everyday describing how to best maintain your health and the health of your loved ones. For example, new research has come out which contradicts the well-known, and well-reviewed, opinion that supplementing with nutrients can greatly benefit health. However, this controversial premise is countered with numerous studies that show just how beneficial nutrients can be.

Writes in the lane of nutrition and natural treatment.

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