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Sunday 26th May 2019

Vitamins do not boost heart health

6th November 2012

People in the United States spend billions of dollars a year on multivitamins in the hope that doing so will help protect them against some serious diseases.


However, a recently completed study suggests that the benefits are dubious, particularly in the case of cardiovascular disease.

According to the Physicians' Health Study II, a large, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of a daily vitamin pill begun in 1997, taking a daily multivitamin does not produce a reduced rate of major cardiovascular events in those who take it.

Researcher Howard Sesso of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said that his team found no difference in the rate of myocardial infarction, stroke, or cardiovascular death between those receiving the multivitamin and those receiving a placebo.

Neither were there any benefits seen for either primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, Sesso told a meeting of the American Heart Association meeting.

He said the main reason for taking multivitamins could only be the prevention of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

However, men who took the pills did show a small reduction in total cancer rates, he added.

Elliott Antman of Harvard Medical School in Boston said the study had yielded helpful information for doctors who need to discuss with patients whether they should take vitimin tablets.

Antman said he would remind his patients that vitamins could not be relied upon as a preventive measure for cardiovascular disease, based on current data.

However, a separate study that followed nearly 15,000 middle-aged and older men for about 11 years found a reduction in total cancers of 8%.

Researcher J. Michael Gaziano, also at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research that multivitamins offered "a modest benefit for cancer reduction in men over 50."

The Physicians' Health Study II followed the same 7,641 male physicians from the Physicians' Health Study I, which evaluated aspirin and beta-carotene for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

It also included 7,000 newly enrolled male physicians, with the aim of measuring any preventive effects of vitamin E, vitamin C, and multivitamin supplements on rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Both sets of findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Less than 4% of the study participants were smokers, they had a mean age of 64, and were in general good health.

Rates of exercising at least once a week were high, at around 60%.

Multivitamins failed to confer any benefits compared with the placebo across all subgroups, however, a result which is in line with previous trials of multivitamins.

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