Neuroendocrine Tumor (NET) nutrition expert Leigh Anne Burns, RDN, answers questions about vitamin, supplement, and enzyme nutrition for neuroendocrine tumor patients. Questions include, do you recommend using mushroom supplements?
This excerpt is from our April Facebook Live event with Leigh Anne Burns, RDN, in which we discussed NETs and Nutrition. Watch the full Facebook Live program here:
We’ve been told to take vitamin supplements at an early age, but are they really good for you? The history behind them might surprise you…
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“Americans have been taking multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplements since the early 1940s, when the first such products became available. MVMs are still popular dietary supplements and, according to estimates, more than one-third of all Americans take these supplements.”
The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements
“Nutrition experts contend that all we need is what’s typically found in a routine diet. Industry representatives, backed by a fascinating history, argue that foods don’t contain enough, and we need supplements. Fortunately, many excellent studies have now resolved the issue.”
Getting your vitamins and minerals through diet
“We all know that vitamin supplements are no substitute for a healthy diet, but nobody’s perfect when it comes to healthful eating. It can be particularly challenging to get the nutrients you need if you’re dieting or if you avoid animal or dairy products. So, many of us take a daily multivitamin as nutritional insurance. But research suggests that multivitamins may not be all they’re cracked up to be. ”
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Part of a Facebook Live webchat in which Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, discussed the latest in nutrition and cancer, including the elements of a healthy diet and how to eat while managing the side effects of cancer treatment. Learn more:
Should vitamins and supplements be a part of a cancer patient’s diet? Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center Nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, discusses the best foods and diet for cancer patients.
This video was originally filmed as part of a live video webchat, “The Best Foods and Diet for Cancer Treatment and Survivorship,” held on March 25, 2015. View the entire webchat here:
More information on nutrition during cancer treatment is available at:
You really want to go back to your dietician and to your doctor with any of these questions, because certain supplements are important and helpful. Some people need to take Vitamin D. Some people need to take probiotics. Magnesium sometimes, if your blood level is low from chemo.
But there are other supplements that can actually reduce the effectiveness of your treatment. For example, taking high-dose antioxidant pills during radiation therapy may reduce its effectiveness—same thing for chemo. So, you don’t want to be going through all of this and doing something that’s inadvertently sort of compromising its success to some extent.
One thing that people often are understandably confused about is, ‘Well, then I guess I shouldn’t eat blueberries, because those have antioxidants.’ And the issue and concern is just with supplements, which can be high dose, potent, and also to some extent a lack of regulation, so we don’t want you skipping those fruits and veggies. We want you picking those and asking your doctor about the supplements. Don’t just start taking vitamins thinking they’re going to fill in the gaps.
Ohio State researchers have found a clear link between heavy usage of vitamins B6 and B12 supplements and lung cancer in men.
The study, led by Theodore Brasky, PhD, from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, showed that the risk of developing lung cancer doubled for male non-smokers who heavily consumed the supplements over a 10-year period. That increase in risk jumped to three-to-four times for men who smoked.
Watch the video for more information about the study.
For more information, recipes, and nutrition tips, and to watch more videos on Eating Well During Cancer, visit .
Vitamins and supplements are a big area of conversation, controversy, and research. When considering ways to ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need for optimal health, Dana-Farber nutrition specialist Stacy Kennedy explains why it’s important to think about the benefits of “food first.”
I’m Stacy Kennedy, a nutrition specialist for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Welcome to Eating Well During Cancer. Today I’d like to talk with you about vitamins and supplements—what’s OK, what might be beneficial, and what should you avoid.
Vitamins and supplements are a big area of conversation, controversy, and research right now. But before we get into details around vitamin pills, I’d like to take a step back and think about the benefits of food first. A lot of research on vitamins and supplements comes out of data looking at what people were eating in their diet. We know that people who eat a variety of plant-based foods can gain a variety of important health-promoting nutrients that we call ‘phytonutrients.’
It’s really important to think about eating by the rainbow. Getting some red fruits and vegetables, what makes a tomato red is an antioxidant called ‘lycopene’ that’s going through a lot of research to see its potential role or benefit in prostate cancer. We have orange. What makes a carrot orange or a sweet potato have that vibrant, bright, orange hue is another antioxidant in the same family called ‘betacarotene.’ We also have yellow, like mango and banana. We know that green vegetables have a variety of important nutrients. Don’t forget about blue or purple—that anthocyanin that makes the blueberry blue is an antioxidant that can benefit our immune system as well. Then there’s also the white family, which is often overlooked—things like garlic and onions, which contain an important phytonutrient called ‘allium.’ There’s also ginger.
Many of these examples of antioxidants or phytonutrients also come in pill form, but what we want to do is take a look at food first. An as example of why this is important, let’s think about that betacarotene that we talked about in the carrot. Many years ago, there was a research study that found that people who ate more betacarotene-rich foods, like carrots, had lower rates of developing lung cancer. However, when people were given betacarotene supplement, the researchers actually had to stop the study early, because they found that the participants who were current or former smokers taking the active betacarotene were actually at risk for developing lung cancer—the total opposite effect of what we were hoping for in that type of study. We know now that high-dose antioxidant supplements during certain types of cancer treatment can actually reduce the effectiveness of that cancer treatment.
However, don’t give up your blueberries yet—getting antioxidants from foods doesn’t cause that same concern. The body knows how much to absorb and what nutrients your specific body needs at that current moment in time. So, eating as many blueberries as you want during cancer treatment is not going to be detrimental, like taking a high-dose antioxidant supplement could.
That doesn’t mean that all supplements are not healthy. It’s important to think about a supplement as just that—a supplement to your diet. For example. omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fat that we have to eat, and they play a role in many things—everything from helping to reduce inflammation to having a healthy brain and healthy mind and cognition. There’s a variety of benefits. We get omega-3 fats from certain types of fish, but we can also get them from things like walnuts. Some people may choose to take a supplement, but you always want to run that by your doctor or your nutritionist first. Look to get those nutrients from your foods first.
Now, some supplements might be necessary. For example, when you’re going through treatment, you may have low blood levels of certain nutrients, like magnesium, and in that case, you might need to take a supplement. Vitamin D is another example of a supplement that might be important to take. Vitamin D deficiency is very common, but it’s a blood test, so your doctor can check that out for you, and you can speak with your doctor and your nutritionist.
Hopefully you’ve learned that eating foods first is the best approach to getting your vitamins, and as far as supplements go, check and see—it’s always important to ask questions. For more information and recipes for great, nutrient-rich foods, and tips on what vitamins you may want to choose or avoid, check out our website or download our app. On behalf of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, I’m Stacy Kennedy.
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