Ask The Pharmacist: Reality check - Do B vitamins cause cancer?

Suzy Cohen

There was a study published in August in Journal of Clinical Oncology regarding B vitamins and it’s produced some uneasiness. B complex is thought to boost energy reserve, support metabolism and adrenal function and protect your nerves from fraying.
The August study suggests that two B vitamins from the whole “B complex” family are potentially harmful, but let’s take a closer look before we hang B6 and B12.

The study was conducted in men who smoke. The scary findings don’t even apply to non-smoking men or women.

High-dose, long-term use of vitamins B12 and B6 dramatically increase a man’s risk of lung cancer, especially among those who smoke, according to a new study from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

The researchers tried to level the playing field. They asked questions to each participant about their smoking history, body size, alcohol use, history of cancer and use of anti-inflammatory medications. How many questionnaires have you filled out in your life and underestimated your weight, or smoking and drinking habits?

The dietary supplements taken were more than likely synthetic and/or not biologically active because that’s what’s sold in 99 percent of dietary supplements. You may not realize this but Vitamin B6 as “pyridoxine” is not even biologically active when you take it. Vitamin B12 sold as “cyanocobalamin” isn’t biologically active either, not until it breaks down in your body. It begs the question, “Do you think taking synthetic or inactive chemicals while inhaling toxic nicotine will promote your health?” 

Nicotine and related compounds are known to be carcinogenic. It doesn’t matter a whole lot what else you’re doing to promote health if you continue to smoke.

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It’s best to eat green leafy vegetables and lean meats to get B6 and B12 respectively. But if you are going to take a dietary supplement take the biologically active (body-ready) forms of nutrients. For example, Methylcobalamin is the cell-loving form of B12. And Adenosylcobalamin (adeno B12) is the mito-loving form of B12 and both of those are more biologically active in the body than synthesized Cyanocobalamin. 

Folic acid is synthetic, whereas Methylfolate (5-MTHF) is natural and you can get this from eating salads and sautéed greens. It’s the methylated form of folate which is biologically active and understood by the body, especially your methylation cycle.  
This is all confusing isn’t it? In summary: 

Don’t trust headlines, they are intended to be sensational in order to get you to read!

Don’t trust the interpretation of scientists who use synthetic, potentially harmful compounds in their studies.

Vitamins B6 and B12 sold in most dietary supplements are unfortunately synthetic, and could essentially be useless, or harmful. Buy high-quality vitamins or don’t buy them at all.

Don’t smoke, it will hasten your demise even if you’re taking a multivitamin or a high-quality B complex.

Smoking is a ‘drug mugger’ of Vitamin C.  So if you are trying to improve your health (while chewing or smoking) then take a high quality C, or eat citrus fruits. That is more of a ‘friend’ to your body than a B vitamin.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit