Few nutritional supplements can protect people from developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, and some may actually be harmful, a research review from West Virginia University School of Medicine suggests.
Researchers examined data from 277 trials with a total of almost one million participants to assess the effects of 16 different nutritional supplements and 8 dietary interventions on the risk of heart problems and strokes.
Most of the vitamins, minerals, supplements and diets didn’t protect against heart attack or stroke or reduce the risk of death from heart-related causes, the researchers found.
Healthy diet, not supplements, recommended
Current dietary guidelines recommend several healthy eating patterns, including Mediterranean and vegetarian diets, but they do not recommend routine supplement use to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease or other chronic diseases.
Previous research has linked a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, fish and olive oil to a healthier heart and brain, particularly as people age. Vegetarian diets have also been tied to a lower risk of heart disease.
Less sodium, omega-3’s, folate may protect against cardiovascular disease
In the current study, researchers did find some evidence that reduced salt intake was associated with a lower risk of early death from all causes among people with normal blood pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids, meanwhile, appeared to lower the risk of heart attacks and coronary heart disease.
And the B vitamin folic acid appeared to help lower the risk of strokes.
But supplements with a combination of calcium and vitamin D intake were associated with a higher risk for stroke, the analysis also found.
And there was no significant effect on mortality or risk of cardiovascular disease from other supplements, such as multivitamins, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D alone, calcium alone and iron, or reducing dietary fat intake.
Even though the analysis looked at data from randomized clinical trials - the gold standard for testing causality - there were still limitations.
The biggest drawback was that the smaller studies in the analysis used a variety of methods for testing the effect of supplements and examined different doses and formulations of these products for varied lengths of time.
Still, the authors concluded that there’s enough evidence to suggest that people shouldn’t start taking supplements just because they want to prevent heart problems.
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.