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More evidence that supplements won't help your heart

Updated:

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- There's another study suggesting that the vitamin and mineral supplements bought by millions of Americans do nothing to stave off heart disease.

This time, the finding stems from an analysis of 18 studies conducted between 1970 and 2016. Each one looked at how vitamins and mineral supplements -- which are not reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for either safety or effectiveness -- affect heart health.

After tracking more than 2 million participants for an average of 12 years, the studies came up with a clear conclusion: they don't.

Still, "people tend to prefer a quick and easy solution, such as taking a pill, rather than the more effortful method to prevent cardiovascular disease," said study author Dr. Joonseok Kim.

"Simply put, multivitamins and mineral supplements do not improve cardiovascular health outcomes, so [they] should not be taken for that purpose," added Kim. He's an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's division of cardiovascular disease.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association representing supplement makers, stressed that the products are meant as nutritional aids only, not as a means of preventing or treating illness.

"CRN stresses that multivitamins fill nutrient gaps in our less-than-perfect diets and support a host of other physiological functions," senior vice president Duffy MacKay said in a statement. "They are not intended to serve as magic bullets for the prevention of serious diseases."

In the study, Kim and his colleagues reported that after accounting for both smoking histories and physical activity habits, they saw no evidence that taking a multivitamin or mineral supplements lowers the risk for dying from heart disease, experiencing a stroke, or dying from a stroke.

The lack of any apparent heart health benefit was seen across the board, regardless of age or gender.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow helps direct the UCLA Preventative Cardiology Program in Los Angeles. He noted that upwards of 100 million American men and women take vitamins or supplements "frequently based on the misguided belief that doing so can improve their heart and vascular health."

The largely unregulated supplement industry is doing a booming business, with a projected value of $278 billion by 2024, Kim's team noted.

This, despite the fact that prior studies have "consistently demonstrated no benefit" from supplements when it comes to heart health, Fonarow said.

In fact, both Kim and Fonarow believe supplements may actually do harm.

How? According to Kim, placing one's faith in supplements "could deviate the public from following measures that are proven to be beneficial for cardiovascular health."

By way of example, he pointed out that while 50 percent of the American public consumes dietary supplements, just 13 percent meet federal recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption.

"We know that fruit and vegetable intake improves cardiovascular health," Kim said.

Fonarow concurred, adding that "the false belief that these supplements are providing some level of protection distracts from adopting approaches that actually lower cardiovascular risk."

"The evidence-based, guideline-recommended approaches to reduce the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease include maintaining a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body weight, not smoking, and engaging in daily physical activity," Fonarow added.

"There are also widely available and inexpensive once daily cardiovascular protective medications such as statins that, in eligible individuals, can safely and effectively lower risk," he said.

Neither the American Heart Association nor the American College of Cardiology recommends taking multivitamins or mineral supplements to lower heart disease risk, Fonarow noted.

As for Kim, he hopes the new study "dampens the hype of multivitamins and mineral supplements, and encourages people to focus on the real issues like diet, exercise, [and] smoking cessation."

The research was published in the July issue of the journal Circulation.

More information

There's more on dietary supplements at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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