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Heart Disease Health Center

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Antioxidants Don’t Lower Heart Risk

Study Examines Vitamins C, E, Beta-Carotene for Preventing Heart Attack, Stroke

Antioxidants and the Heart continued...

Overall, none of the vitamins, either alone or in combination, were found to significantly impact any of these cardiovascular outcomes.

Women who took vitamins C and E did have slightly fewer strokes, but it was not clear if the association was real or a function of the study design. Also, when participants who didn't take the assigned supplements regularly were removed from the analysis, there was a 13% reduced risk of any incident of heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery or angioplasty, or death due to cardiovascular causes linked to vitamin E, but not for the other supplements studied.

“Overall we found no benefit on the primary combined end point for any of the antioxidant agents tested, alone or in combination. We also found no evidence for harm,” Cook and colleagues wrote in the Aug. 13/27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

“While additional research into combinations of agents, particularly for stroke, may be of interest, widespread use of these individual agents for cardiovascular protection does not appear warranted.”

Healthy Diet Lowers Risk

While the intervention studies examining antioxidant supplements for protection against heart attacks and strokes have proven disappointing, study after study has also shown that eating a nutrient-rich diet can lower risk, says Lichtenstein, who is a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

“Isolating individual components of a healthy diet hasn’t worked, but it does appear that a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is protective,” she says.

Study co-author JoAnn Manson, MD, who is chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, agrees.

“This research underscores the importance of focusing on proven methods for preventing cardiovascular disease, including physical activity, healthy diet, controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol, maintaining healthy weight, and avoiding tobacco,” she says in a news release.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a supplement industry trade group, states in an email to WebMD that this study contradicts several recent studies of antioxidant supplements, which showed that antioxidants and vitamin E may adversely affect mortality.

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