Food is better than supplements for heart disease prevention

September 9, 2009 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Food is better than supplements for heart disease prevention

People who want to stave off heart disease and type 2 diabetes may do better by choosing antioxidant-rich foods instead of antioxidant supplements, according to a new study from France.

In this study, researchers looked at the risk of metabolic syndrome among more than 5,200 middle-aged adults who took antioxidant vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc or a placebo.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of the following risk factors for heart disease: high triglycerides (blood fats), low HDL "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and a large waist circumference.

There was no significant difference in risk of developing metabolic syndrome between the supplement and placebo groups. Overall, antioxidant supplements had no effect on the risk of developing metabolic syndrome over seven years.

However, when researchers looked at participants' antioxidant blood levels at the start of the study those with the highest vitamin C levels had about half the risk of metabolic syndrome as those with the lowest levels.

Similarly, people with the highest blood levels of beta-carotene had only one-third of the risk of metabolic syndrome as those with the lowest beta-carotene concentrations. Higher zinc levels in the blood were linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

These findings, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that taking antioxidants in capsule form may not thwart metabolic syndrome. "This reinforces the guidelines for an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables and goes against the regular use of antioxidant pills," says the lead researcher.

Good food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries and cantaloupe, and vegetables such as red peppers, broccoli and tomatoes.

Beta-carotene, which is converted in the body into vitamin A, is found in bright orange foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.

For recipes and more information on foods that prevent heart disease, check out Leslie Beck's Heart Healthy Foods for Life.

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.