Today one of the fads of American culture includes “being healthy,” and the many versions of what being healthy looks like to each individual. There’s veganism, non-GMO, dietary supplements, detox, Fitbits, and health tracking apps. Celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon, making health-conscious brands: Kate Hudson has her own athletic clothing line, Fabletics; Jay-Z and Beyoncé have a 22-day challenge to be vegan, 22 Days Nutrition; and celebrity doctor, Dr. Oz, has his own TV show, The Dr. Oz Show. On this show, Dr. Oz has recommended taking vitamin B12 pills for those looking for more energy. “You don’t need a doctor, you don’t need a prescription.” Seems like a reasonable solution, right?
Wrong… at least according to this study from 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers found that taking vitamin B6 and B12 supplements in high doses can increase men’s chances of developing lung cancer! Men in the study who used more than 55 micrograms daily are seeing an increased risk of cancer. Specifically, men in the study who used more than 20 milligrams of B6 or 55 micrograms of B12 per day were two times as likely to develop lung cancer compared with nonusers. Smokers who took high doses of B vitamins experienced an even higher incidence of lung cancer. Note: there was no apparent risk among women, but the study doesn’t conclude that the increased risk doesn’t exist for them.
How Much is Too Much?
As with most things in life, moderation is key. The U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance for B vitamins is 1.7 milligrams/day for B6 and 2.4 micrograms/day for B12. Those in the study were taking 20 times those recommended amounts! While that may seem abnormal, many health stores sell vitamin B pills in doses that high. Even worse, some stores sell up to 100-milligram vitamin B6 pills and 5000-microgram vitamin B12 pills. This is over 50 times what is recommended for B6 and over 2,000 times for B12!
Weighing the Risks
Those numbers seem ridiculous, right? Shouldn’t there be some sort of warning on the bottle that explains these risks? Currently, supplements are not required to disclose risks. This is due to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) passed in 1994. Under DSHEA, the onus is on the consumer to research the risks of the supplements they use. With any ingested bioactive substance, there are benefits and risks.
This study reminds us of the flaws in the dietary supplement system since most consumers do not subscribe to medical journals or have access to this type of information. However, when a company actively sells or distributes a product in doses that endanger consumers, the risks outweigh any possible benefit and the company may be held strictly liable for their conduct. GoldenbergLaw is committed to holding dietary supplement manufacturers and suppliers responsible in these circumstances. Please feel free to contact Marlene Goldenberg at 612-436-5028 for any questions on B6 or B12 dietary supplement products.