The American Cancer Society’s Skeptical View of Nutrition Supplements

Last Updated on December 30, 2021 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • The ACS strongly opposes supplements and claims they can interfere with chemotherapy.
  • This article covers how the ACS functions as a drug puppet.

Introduction

Like other members of the health establishment, the American Cancer Society likes to denigrate health supplements. This article covers their official position on health supplements as declared on their website.

Our References for This Article

If you want to see our references for this article and related Brightwork articles, visit this link.

The American Cancer Society on Health Supplements

Used properly, certain dietary supplements may help reduce the risk of some diseases. Some might also reduce discomfort caused by certain conditions or medicines or help you feel better, which can improve your quality of life. Most people can use dietary supplements safely as long as they don’t take too much. But dietary supplements are not totally safe, and taking them can have risks, especially for people who are getting cancer treatment.

  • Are drugs completely safe?
  • Is chemotherapy or radiotherapy completely safe?

It is curious that a society that recommends two of the most dangerous forms of treatment would focus on the issue of safety.

Secondly, nutrition doesn’t merely “reduce the risks” for some diseases, and they reduce some diseases. The American Cancer Society makes it sound like nutrient deficiencies are a hypothetical issue.

On the Topic of Nutrient Deficiency

The topic of nutrient deficiency is so important and connects to so many different areas of medical advice from health authorities that I have centralized this topic to an article, which is The Reality But Ignored Topic of Widespread Nutrient Deficiency. However, this nutrient deficiency is well established.

The quote from the American Cancer Society continues…

How The American Cancer Society Presents The Risks of Supplement

Dietary supplements, herbal preparations, and homeopathic treatments caused almost 70,000 calls to US poison control centers in 2019. Of these calls, more than 7,000 people needed treatment at health care facilities. More than 800 of these cases led to moderate to severe outcomes. However, most people who have side effects, illnesses, or drug interactions from dietary supplements don’t call a poison control center or the supplement manufacturer. This means that the numbers we have are likely lower than what actually happens.

Research published in the New England Journal of medicine produced a different estimate, as is explained in the following quotation.

The study, which was conducted by a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, tracked ER admissions at 63 hospitals throughout the United States from 2004 to 2013. Of the estimated annual 23,000 ER visits, 2,000 resulted in hospitalizations.

Comparative Risk #1: The Issue of Adverse Reactions from Covid Vaccines

As I cover in the article The Covid Vaccines Ivermectin vs. Remdesivir, the number of adverse effects from the covid vaccines reached close to 3 million by December of 2021. And this is known to be understated by roughly 90%. However, health authorities told the public not to focus on the adverse effects of covid vaccines as it would cause “vaccine hesitancy.”

Comparative Risk #2: The Issue of Adverse Reactions from Pharmaceuticals

This calculation is performed in the article A Calculation of the Relative Risk of Pharmaceuticals Versus Nutrition Supplements.

This calculation estimates that pharmaceuticals are more than 1000x more dangerous or higher risk than nutrition supplements.

Knowing this information, it is darkly humorous to continue reading the American Cancer Society’s cautions regarding health supplements.

Side effects from dietary supplements happen most often if people take high doses or use them instead of medicines prescribed by their health care provider. Also, some supplements can cause problems if taken along with certain medicines.

Well, this falsely places MDs in the position of being primary interfaces for recommendations on supplements. This is not true. MDs generally dissuade people from taking supplements.

The quote continues…

For example:

Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, might make some chemotherapy medicines less effective.
Vitamin K can make the blood thinner warfarin less effective and increase the risk of blood clotting.
St. John’s wort can make certain medicines less effective. Some examples are birth control pills and medicines for depression, heart problems, HIV, and cancer.
Taking many different supplements can increase the risk of side effects and drug interactions.

Special concerns for people being treated for cancer
There are several ways that supplements can cause problems for people during cancer treatment. For example:

Some dietary supplements can cause skin sensitivity and severe reactions when taken during radiation treatment. If you are getting radiation treatments, talk to your doctors before taking any supplement.

For people who need surgery, some supplements may react with medicines used during and after surgery or might increase the risk of certain side effects such as bleeding and infection. Other medicines can affect the way the heart and brain work, leading to complications during and after surgery. Let your doctor know what supplements you are taking before you have surgery.

Observe that when a supplement reacts with medicine, the American Cancer Society blames the supplement. There is no finger-pointing at the drug. The entire presentation of supplements by the American Cancer Society is that drugs are rational treatments, while nutrition supplements are not. Therefore, naturally, when there is a reaction, the blame needs to be placed squarely on the supplement. Again, the American Cancer Society represents pharmaceutical and radiological interests. So naturally, this is their view.

Drugs are far more powerful than nutritional supplements, and I just provided evidence that, have far more side effects and adverse reactions versus health supplements. But even with the extraordinary risk math in the corner of the safety of health supplements versus drugs, the American Cancer Society is not persuaded. It feels the need to point out supplement interactions with medications.

I am not proposing that the doctor not be told about one’s supplementation. However, the American Cancer Society seems to be dismissing any benefits that also come from supplements and appears to view them as a hindrance to medical treatment. The problem with this view is that many supplements are essential to improving one’s immune system — and the population has been declared even by the CDC as being deficient in many of these vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, the ability of the body to fight cancer is strongly based upon the strength of the immune system. A robust immune system can prevent cancer from occurring, as the body must fight cancer on an hourly basis.

Cancer is itself a symptom of a defect in the immune system. However, the American Cancer Society does not explain any of this to the reader in this diatribe against nutrition supplements.

The quote continues…

People getting chemotherapy may be at higher risk for side effects if they take some dietary supplements. Some supplements can interfere with how the body breaks down chemotherapy, which can make it less effective or increase side effects.

Well, which vitamin supplements? Because that is quite a blanket statement by the American Cancer Society. Many supplements are necessary to optimize the immune system — and many of these supplements are commonly deficient in the population (Vitamin D, Magnesium, Vitamin K, and others). These are desirable for both cancer and non-cancer patients to take. Do these interfere with how the body breaks down chemotherapy drugs?

The quote continues…

Because of these concerns, many cancer experts advise people to avoid dietary supplements while getting cancer treatment. But if you decide to take supplements, be sure to discuss this with your doctor or cancer care team. They can help you understand whether or not a particular product might be safe for you.

Well, that is a problem. The American Cancer Society is asking readers and cancer patients to stop taking things that (depending upon the supplement) might be critical to improving their immune system.

And the problem with discussing supplements with one’s doctor is that pharmaceutical companies have trained the vast majority of MDs to tell patients that they get all the vitamins and minerals from their diet. MDs do not know much about supplements and provide a lot of incorrect information on them. So the American Cancer Society is telling cancer patients to look for guidance from people who lack knowledge on the topic and are generally opposed to nutrition supplements — and if they do support them, it will promote the FDA’s inaccurate RDAs.

The quote continues…

Why it’s hard to tell if dietary supplements are safe and effective.

Again, supplements have the risk of a rounding error compared to drugs. So this statement is not proportional in terms of risk.

Deficiencies are directly and scientifically demonstrated to lead to several diseases. The purpose of nutrition supplements is to address these deficiencies before the disease appears and to improve health. When a person has cancer, they will call on their immune system even more than usual, which requires higher levels of these nutrients. However, none of this is explained by this quote from the ACS. This is a highly dismissive statement on the part of the ACS.

The quote continues…

Like medicines, dietary supplements have risks and side effects. But unlike medicines, most people choose which dietary supplements to take without learning about them from their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

This is technically true, but there are two problems with this statement.

  • First, supplements are in a completely different risk category from prescription drugs. This is why comparing them in this way does not make any sense, and it is deceptive.
  • Secondly, MDs, nurses, and pharmacists don’t know very much about nutrition supplements, and their training denigrates them as their education and pharmaceutical interests control their institutions. This quote attempts to position these professions as experts in a topic they are not. I am not interested in an MD, nurse, or pharmacist on the subject of nutrition supplements.

The American Cancer Society Proposes that Nutrition Supplement Information is Anectdotal As Opposed to Pharmaceutical Trials Which are “Science”

The quote continues…

Much of what you hear or read about dietary supplements is based on anecdotal evidence.

I cover in the article How Purdue Pharma Created the Opioid Epidemic, how “scientific” the studies were and the FDA process was that brought prescription opioids to the public. I could go on and on about different drugs that should have never been approved ranging from Ritalin (amphetamines) to Vioxx. However, the idea presented by the American Cancer Society that all pharmaceutical trials are scientific is a farce. It presumes a lack of knowledge on the topic of how the pharmaceutical industry works on the part of the reader.

The following website is one that the American Cancer Society does not want anyone to see.

Treatments for Covid: An Embarrassing Fact for the American Cancer Society

The following screenshots are from the website C19 Early, which tracks treatments for covid. Note the treatment name and then the improvement versus covid next to it. The following significant value is the number of studies performed.

Some of the best treatments for covid were not drugs, but vitamins and minerals. The best drug treatment for covid is Ivermectin, a drug that is not approved to treat covid and which the medical establishment has done everything to undermine.

Why Ivermectin is Not the Top Listed Drug for Covid in the Table, but Probably is in Reality

For those with a question of why Ivermectin is not the top-rated according to the C19 Early.com table when one accounts for the fact that the drugs that are ranked ahead of it have far fewer studies, and as the number of studies increases, the drug’s effectiveness invariably drops. The top performers in the table usually are new and only have a few studies. Notice the large number of studies into Ivermectin versus those listed above it. Back when Ivermectin had fewer studies, its effectiveness was also higher. Furthermore, the studies for Ivermectin are more likely to be accurate than the studies by drugs that are on patent due to the profit motive to rig the studies for positive outcomes. 

The studies for many of these treatments, including the vitamins and minerals like Zinc (20 studies) and Vitamin D (53 studies), are far more numerous and of higher quality than those for drugs.

To receive approval from the FDA, a drug only requires two studies to be submitted, and the drug companies hide any study and ends studies that show the drug not to be effective.

The Ridiculous Claims of the American Cancer Society

Therefore, the idea that all nutritional supplement studies are anecdotal and only drug studies are scientific is false.

On the topic of the financial bias of supplement manufacturers, I could not find anywhere on the American Cancer Society’s website where they pointed out the financial incentives of drug companies, specifically chemotherapy providers or radiotherapy providers. Nor could I find any coverage of the corruption of medical research by these interests. However, the one place where the American Cancer Society observes financial incentives is in the supplement manufacturers. Furthermore, I could not find anywhere on the American Cancer Society’s website where they pointed out drug companies’ financial incentives, specifically chemotherapy providers or radiotherapy providers. Nor could I find any coverage of the corruption of medical research by these interests. However, the one place where the American Cancer Society observes financial incentives is in the supplement manufacturers.

I am aware of the financial interests of supplement manufacturers. Everyone who is selling something is ultimately trying to make money.

However, I am also aware of the financial interests of not only pharmaceutical companies by also the financial interests of the American Cancer Society, which has adopted the interests of chemotherapy and radiotherapy providers and diminished natural ways of improving immunity as the chemotherapy and radiotherapy approaches provide far higher income to the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society Proposes That As the FDA Does Not Approve Supplements, They Are Dangerous

The quote continues…

Supplement makers do not have to get approval from the FDA to sell their products. The FDA does watch for products that may be unsafe or make false or misleading claims, B but they can only do this after the product is already on the market. As its resources permit, the FDA looks at supplement labels and other information, such as package inserts, claims, and online ads. But it cannot review all of the many products on the market today.

Supplement manufacturers are already restricted by law from addressing any specific treatment.

Furthermore, if you read the marketing material of most supplement manufacturers, you will find that the claims are conservative. Most supplements bottles and websites focus on what is contained in the item, advertising that it does not have GMOs, whether it is organic or not, etc.. — not on the supplement’s effects.

Only Pharmaceuticals Can Treat or Cure Disease?

The quote continues…

And remember – no matter what the supplement maker claims, dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or relieve the effects of diseases.

That is not true.

They may not advertise that they do this, but they do have this effect when they address a deficiency. And they are also intended to do this.

The American Cancer Society’s Obsession With Protecting the Population from Unsafe Supplements

The quote continues…

To avoid unsafe supplements, don’t buy:

Products that claim to work like prescription medicines – anything that claims to treat an illness or cure a medical condition.

Again this is illegal in the US, and can get the product restricted by the FDA, which has the power to pull products in the US.

The quote continues…

Products that are advertised through mass e-mails
Products that promise weight loss, body-building, or enhanced sexual performance.

Products that say they are a legal alternative to anabolic steroids.

Possible quality issues with some dietary supplements
Many dietary supplements are made under careful conditions and labeled correctly. But others are not made as carefully. Some companies don’t follow the FDA’s rules about making claims and labeling supplements correctly. In some cases, when herbal supplements have been tested, they have been found to contain very little or none of the listed ingredient. Some even contain chemicals that could be harmful to certain people. And some supplements contain a larger dose than the label lists. Serious illnesses and even deaths have resulted from these kinds of problems.

This quote contains some truth, but it is again exaggerated.

I cover the article Health Supplement Quality Control and The FDA’s Lack of Interest in the Topic. It is important to buy supplements that have NSF or USP quality certification. The most significant risk with supplements is that they don’t contain what they say they contain — that is the purpose of these quality certifications. And many supplements do not have these certifications. However, the serious illness and death comment is ridiculously disproportional given the actual mathematical risk. The American Cancer Society has no similar web page for adverse drug reactions, even though they are at least 1000x more common.

How the American Cancer Society’s Arguments Fall Apart One Relative Risk is Calculated

Suppose we look at comparative risks for other items. Around 33 people die every year from lawnmower accidents. This is normally people riding on lawnmowers which they flip. There are roughly 38,000 automobile deaths in the US per year. 38,000/33 = 1150x. The American Cancer Society is doing in their warnings regarding supplements would be like focusing on lawnmower deaths versus automobile deaths. The argument is that the concern is that supplements are not regulated. However, one does not need a driver’s license to operate a riding lawnmower. However, the relative risk statistics entirely undermine the logic of focusing on lawnmower deaths because riding on lawnmowers does not require specific government regulation.

The quote continues…

Common misconceptions about dietary supplements

It is a common belief that natural is safer or better than man-made or refined substances. Not only is this not always true, but some natural products can be harmful even if used as directed. For instance, comfrey and kava can harm the liver.

Any substance is toxic if taken in a high enough dose, and people have died from ingesting too much water in a short period of time. But as the statistics I previously calculated showed, the far more considerable concern of the American Cancer Society should be drugs, not nutrition supplements.

The quote continues…

Some people believe that mega-doses of certain vitamins can prevent or cure diseases. However, no scientific studies have proven this to be true. In fact, large doses of some vitamins or minerals can be dangerous and even harmful. For example, the body cannot get rid of large doses of vitamin A. It can reach toxic levels when too much is taken, which can damage organs and interfere with certain medicines.

As I observed earlier, overly large doses of any substance can be dangerous. However, if supplements are so dangerous, why are the number of hospitalizations in the US so low (at roughly 2000) in a country with a population of over 330 million? That is approximately 2000/365 = 5.5 people being hospitalized every day. This is not killed, and this is hospitalized. The American Cancer Society spends a lot of time describing how dangerous supplements are, but the statistics don’t support the American Cancer Society’s claims. How many people die every year from chemotherapy or radiotherapy? This is explained in the following quotation.

“But there were no deaths recorded from anyone taking a mineral supplement, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc or iron, or an amino acid or herbal, such as blue cohosh, Echinacea, ginkgo biloba, kava kava, valerian or St John’s wort.

“If nutritional supplements are allegedly so dangerous, as the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the news media and even some physicians still claim, then where are the bodies?” – Supplement Place

This is something I observed. There seems to be no listing of the number of deaths from supplements by any of the establishment medical entities, and it is almost as if it would undermine their case.

MDs, Nurses, and Pharmacists Are Experts in Nutrition Supplements?

The quote continues…

Talk with your health care team before taking large doses of any vitamin, mineral, or other supplement. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist should be able to help you find information on safe dosages.

This is part of a strategy used by all medical authorities to inaccurately present medical professionals as experts in nutrition, while their pharmaceutical influence training tells them nutrition supplements are unnecessary. This topic is covered in the article Why Health Authorities Position MDs, Nurses, and Pharmacists as Experts in Nutrition.

All Supplements Are Based Upon Unscientific Folk Knowledge?

The quote continues…

“It’s been used for hundreds/thousands of years, so it must work”

Knowing that a botanical has been used in folk or traditional medicine for many years can be helpful, but it is not proof that it works or that it’s safe. If small amounts of a plant caused painful or life-threatening side effects right away, it probably wouldn’t have been used for very long. But in the distant past, scientific methods weren’t used to look for possible long-term side effects. So, if a plant seemed useful over the short term but actually increased the risk of a chronic disease (like cancer, heart failure, or kidney failure), that side effect likely would not have been noticed.

Also remember that most herbs, plants, and other methods were used in traditional medicine systems to reduce symptoms or make the person feel better. This was helpful to people who were likely to recover anyway. But if a person died, it was accepted that death was a possible outcome of most serious illnesses.

Excuse me, but the medical establishment uses the fact that the body naturally heals itself to take credit for medicines that do not work all the time. Therefore this is a strange charge to level at natural remedies. The cancer treatment industry has made little progress against cancer and can’t explain why the incidence of cancer keeps rising, but is continually declaring they are winning the war against cancer. There is no doubt that part of this quote is accurate. Numerous items are part of traditional medicine that does not work. And I am not here to defend anything that does not work. However, while that is fine for the American Cancer Society to point out, but where is the American Cancer Society on the many nutrients for which the population is deficient, and for which addressing that deficiency improves health.

The quote continues…

Finally, keep in mind that many of these methods were used in the distant past because they were the best option available at the time, as more effective treatments had not yet been developed.

What percentage of supplements fall into this category?

The most widely taken nutrition supplements are things like calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, Zink, etc…

These are vitamins and minerals for which there are well-established deficiencies. None of these quotes from the American Cancer Society seem willing to acknowledge the solid scientific evidence fo the benefits of addressing these deficiencies. I point to the vitamins and minerals that have been proven to be more effective than almost any drug versus covid in the graphic I presented earlier in this article.

The American Cancer Society Recommends Against Taking Nutrition Supplements With Medications?

“It can’t hurt to take supplements along with my regular medicines”

Many people assume that it is safe to take dietary supplements along with prescription medicines. This is not always true. For example, certain dietary supplements can block or speed up the body’s ability to break down some medicines. This can cause a person to have too much or too little of the medicine in their bloodstream. Most medicine companies and producers of herbal supplements do not research possible medicine interactions, so the risks of taking supplements with other medicines are largely unknown.

Talk with your health care team about any supplements you are taking or are thinking about taking. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any known interactions with medicines you may be taking. Keep in mind that with new medicines and supplements, interactions may not yet be known.

I have brought this up already multiple times. Still, the American Cancer Society is, like the FDA, directing the readers of this article and cancer patients generally to rely on professions hostile to nutrition supplements and know very little about them to rely on them as experts in these topics.

The job of a pharmacist is to fill prescriptions, understand drug dosages and drug interactions. Pharmacists are not nutritionists, and nutritionists are not pharmacists. Pharmacists would be highly offended if the ACS told its readers to consult their nutritionists to fill their prescriptions. However, it is considered entirely normal for the American Cancer Society to promote people to talk to non-nutritionists to obtain nutrition and supplementation advice. Before reading this article, I do not recall anyone saying one should speak to a pharmacist to gather their views on nutrition supplementation.

No doubt a pharmacist might say that my statement is entirely incorrect because pharmacy degrees now include a nutrition course. However, taking a class on a topic does not mean that that individual is a good source, mainly when their job is to dispense drugs. I have read a good amount on pharmaceuticals, but I am not allowed to fill prescriptions so far.

Conclusion

This article by the American Cancer Society is filled with faulty logic, terrible math on risk and is essentially designed to discredit and promote fear of nutrition supplementation. The entire article is dishonest.

The curious thing is that it is very well established that addressing nutrition deficiencies improves the immune system. There are specific proven relationships between vitamin and mineral deficiencies and diseases and adverse health consequences — and it appears the American Cancer Institute either seeks to deny this or does not know this and seeks to diminish this research by claiming most evidence is anecdotal.

As with other parts of the medical establishment, the American Cancer Society shows little interest in discussing how the immune system is critical to fighting cancer. The American Cancer Society presents nutrition supplements as if they are utterly unscientific folk remedies that can’t hold a candle to drugs — and have absolutely nothing to do with science, and that studies that demonstrate the benefits of nutrition supplementation barely exist.

  • The American Cancer Society’s presentation of nutrition supplementation can rightly be called ridiculous.
  • The clear implication is that those who take supplements have low IQs, and those that simply do what the American Cancer Society says have higher IQs and better health outcomes.


If I were to summarize the American Cancer Society’s article on nutrition supplements, it would be that all supplements were developed in the Shire, by Hobbits, before science was invented and that they are sold off of Gandalf’s cart. Furthermore, these dangerous supplements (that for some inexplicable reason have less than 1/1000th the risk of pharmaceuticals) negatively interact with drugs, which is entirely the fault of the supplement and never the responsibility of the drug. 

The Pattern of Deception on Nutrition Supplements By the Medical Establishment

After reading the views of many health authorities on immunity and supplementation, a pattern has emerged of health authorities seeking to diminish the importance of one’s natural immune system, and how to improve one’s immunity and the authority’s emphasis on medical intervention over educating readers on how to improve immunity. This same focus is described in the article A Comparison of How Much Effort the CDC Puts Into Immunity Versus Vaccines.

This means that the American Cancer Institute is yet another member of the medical establishment that does not have expertise on the topic or does have the expertise to know better but is deliberately misleading its readers.

This all means that the entities that are part of the medical establishment are extremely unreliable sources on nutrition supplementation. They are also unreliable sources of information on diet, and overall health maintenance.