Vitamins Take Another Health Hit

Doctors had hoped that the antioxidants Vitamin E and Selenium, could prevent prostate cancer. But CBS News learned six weeks ago that more than 35,000 patients in the largest prevention trial of its kind were told to stop taking them, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports. Tuesday, it became official.

"Taking Selenium or Vitamin E at the doses that we used in the select trial for an average of five years did not prevent prostate cancer," said Dr. Eric A. Klein of the Cleveland Clinic.

This is just the latest in a string of disappointing news about vitamin pills, a nearly $8 billion industry. Last month, a study showed neither vitamins E nor C prevent heart disease.

CBS News asked the government's top authority on supplements, Paul M. Coates, director of the Office of Dietary Supplements for the National Institutes of Health, for the bottom line on:

  • Vitamin E: "We have exhausted the possibilities for its role in chronic disease prevention."
  • Vitamin C: "No effect for cancer prevention."
  • Vitamin B: "For the prevention of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer, the evidence does not point to a benefit of B vitamins."

    And what about taking a daily multivitamin?

    "There is a lack of ... solid evidence taking multivitamins regularly have an impact on disease prevention," Coates said.

    There are some useful supplements. For example: folic acid during pregnancy, Vitamin B12 for patients who can't absorb it and calcium when dietary sources aren't enough.