Taking vitamin C and E or beta-carotene supplements does not protect women from dying from heart disease, according to a new study from Harvard Medical School.
In the Women's Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study (WACS), 8171 women with a history of stroke or heart attack were given supplements of either a single antioxidant, a combination of antioxidants, or a placebo.
Long-term supplementation of any one antioxidant, or a combination of two or three, had no effect on the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. In other words, there was no benefit.
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene neutralize harmful free radicals that may damage arterial walls. Free radicals formed as consequence of normal metabolism and they also enter the body through exposure to ozone, pollution or cigarette smoking.
Previous studies have also found that antioxidant supplements don't help guard against heart disease and some even suggest that these supplements might be harmful. For instance, one study hinted that among people with heart disease or diabetes, taking high dose vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of heart failure.
In contrast, there is a plethora of evidence that a high intake of antioxidants from foods is good for your heart. For instance, a 2001 study from Cambridge University found that eating one additional serving of fruits or vegetables could cut heart death rates by 20%.
Canada's Food Guide recommends that adults eat 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. One medium-sized fruit or half a cup (125 ml) of juice counts as one serving of fruit. One serving of vegetable is equal to 1 cup (250 ml) of uncooked salad greens or half a cup (125 ml) of cooked greens.
The best sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red pepper, and tomato juice.
Vitamin E is found in wheat germ, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, whole grains, and kale.
Beta-carotene is found in carrots, sweet potato, spinach, winter squash, and turnip greens.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.