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Multivitamins Do Not Prevent Heart Disease

Vitamin Use Soars continued...

Despite the lack of solid evidence showing that vitamins and dietary supplements protect against heart disease and many other health conditions, more than half of American adults take at least one supplement, and about 10% take more than five, according to Eva Lonn, MD, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Given their widespread use, their impact on heart disease (the nation's No. 1 killer) is of great importance, says Lonn, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. In the U.S., heart disease accounted for 1 in 3 deaths in 2008.

The new study is the first large-scale study pitting multivitamins against a placebo in heart disease prevention, Sesso says. Studies like this -- which compare a treatment to placebo or to standard medication, and then follow people over time to see how many in each group develop a disease -- are the gold standard.

Vitamins and Heart Disease Risk: Details

In the study, about half of the 15,000 men took a daily multivitamin, Centrum Silver. The other half took placebo. When they started the study, they were 50 or older; their average age was 64.

At the start, 754 men had a history of heart disease or stroke.

In the vitamin group, 876 of 7,317 men had a nonfatal heart attack or stroke, or died from cardiovascular disease. In the placebo group, 856 of 7,324 men did. That made their rates of these major events virtually identical.

There was also no effect of multivitamin use on most individual heart conditions. The rates of any heart attack (fatal or nonfatal), any stroke, and death due to stroke were the same in both groups. There were slightly fewer deaths in the vitamin group than in the placebo group, but the difference was so small it could have been due to chance.

The effect of taking daily multivitamin on major heart conditions did not differ between men with or without a history of heart disease.

The vitamin generally appeared well-tolerated, Sesso says. Men in the vitamin group were slightly more likely to develop skin rashes.

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