Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Antioxidants Don’t Lower Heart Risk

Study Examines Vitamins C, E, Beta-Carotene for Preventing Heart Attack, Stroke
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 13, 2007 -- Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene are not effective for preventing heart attacks, strokes, or related deaths, according to one of the longest studies ever to examine the cardiovascular impact of antioxidant supplements.

The study included more than 8,000 women at high risk for cardiovascular disease who took the vitamin supplements, either alone or in combination, for close to a decade.

During this time no evidence emerged of an overall benefit for antioxidant supplementation.

The findings are consistent with other major studies showing antioxidants and other nutritional supplements to be ineffective for the prevention of heart disease and strokes, cardiovascular nutrition expert Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, tells WebMD.

Some of these studies even found specific supplements to be harmful, although the latest study did not.

“Right now we are all being very cautious about dietary supplements,” says Lichtenstein, who directs the cardiovascular nutrition lab at Boston’s Tufts University. “These supplements don’t seem to have clear advantages in people who aren’t deficient, and there is a concern that overdoing them may have adverse consequences.”

Antioxidants and the Heart

Oxidative damage at the cellular level is thought to play an important role in heart and vascular disease by promoting inflammation. The thinking has been that antioxidants like vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene could protect against cardiovascular disease by reducing oxidative stress.

Researcher Nancy R. Cook, ScD, and colleagues from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tested the theory in their study, published in the latest issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

A total of 8,171 women were recruited who had had either a heart attack or stroke or who had at least three cardiac risk factors such as having high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure, being a current smoker, and being obese.

The average age of the women at recruitment was 60, and they were followed for an average of 9.4 years.

During this time, the women took either vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, a combination of the antioxidants, or placebo. There were 274 heart attacks, 298 strokes, 889 bypass surgeries or angioplasties, and 395 deaths due to cardiovascular causes.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure