Neither vitamin E nor beta-carotene supplements protect male smokers against heart disease. In fact, the antioxidants may actually be harmful, cardiologists report in the European Heart Journal.
The findings come from a follow-up study of a Finnish trial that originally looked into the prevention of cancer using vitamin E and/or beta-carotene in men who smoked. Specifically, over 29,000 male smokers between 50 and 69 years of age were randomly assigned to take one or other of the antioxidants or both or a placebo for 5 to 8 years.
At the end of the trial 23,000 of the men remained at risk for a first-ever major coronary "event," while another 1255 had experienced a heart attack and were at risk for a second event. During the 6-year period after the trial ended, a total of 2059 first-ever major coronary events were recorded, about half of which were fatal.
According to the trial researchers, vitamin E supplementation had no significant impact during the post-trial period on first-ever major coronary events, similar to observations made during the trial period. Beta-carotene supplementation, on the other hand, increased the risk for major coronary events by 14 percent.
The researchers say these data on the late effects of vitamin E and beta-carotene argue against their use by male smokers for the prevention of coronary heart disease.
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