Antioxidant Supplements May Not Help Heart

Study Recommends Nutritious Diet Instead of Supplementation

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 2, 2004 - Want to protect your heart from cardiovascular disease? Taking antioxidant supplements doesn't appear to be the answer, according to a new study from the American Heart Association (AHA).

"At this time, the scientific data do not justify the use of antioxidant vitamin supplements for cardiovascular disease risk reduction," say the study's authors in Circulation, published by the AHA.

After reviewing studies performed between 1994 and 2002, the researchers concluded that antioxidant supplements largely had no beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. Overall, the studies did not demonstrate a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease in patients taking antioxidant supplements.

The researchers looked at studies involving mostly participants who had suffered a heart attack or were at high risk for cardiovascular disease; some were taking drugs to treat abnormal cholesterol and blood-fat levels and high blood pressure. However, some studies included healthy subjects.

The authors looked at studies on various doses of vitamin E, beta-carotene, antioxidant "cocktails," combination supplements of vitamins E and C, and natural and synthetic vitamins.

Not Enough Evidence

They say the studies don't necessarily show antioxidant supplements to be useless -- only that there appears to be insufficient scientific evidence to show their effectiveness against heart disease. "We recommend that antioxidant research continue," say the study's authors.

Meanwhile, there is always the original way to get your antioxidants. "At this time, the scientific evidence supports recommending consumption of a diet high in food sources of antioxidants and other cardioprotective nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, instead of antioxidant supplements to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease," say the authors.

Don't forget the other essentials in safeguarding your heart. "Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight and being physically active are important to reduce cardiovascular disease risk," says the study's lead researcher, Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, in a news release. Kris-Etherton is professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University.

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SOURCES: Circulation, 2004; vol 110: pp 637-641. News release, American Heart Association.
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