Supplementing the diet with antioxidant vitamins and minerals appears to blunt the beneficial effects of certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, say researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle. Their findings suggest that patients with coronary artery disease who are taking simvastatin (Zocor) and niacin should avoid supplements containing vitamins E and C, beta-carotene or selenium.
Patients who took these four antioxidants along with simvastatin and niacin had smaller increases in HDL ("good") cholesterol levels over a 1-year period, compared with patients who took the medications alone. (Simvastatin (Zocor) and niacin have been shown to reduce total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol while boosting levels of HDL, which helps cut the risk of heart disease.) After one year, patients on simvastatin and niacin alone saw their HDL increase by an average of 25%, while HDL levels rose by an average of 18% among patients on the medications plus antioxidants. Patients who took only antioxidants or the placebo experienced no significant changes in HDL levels.
The findings, however, do not suggest that patients avoid fruits and vegetables, which are naturally rich in antioxidants and contain a number of other compounds that may protect against heart disease.
Exactly why antioxidant therapy blunted the beneficial effects of cholesterol treatment is not clear, and future studies should try to answer this question.
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