A Vitamin A Day Doesn't Keep The Cardiologist Away
November 5, 2012

A Vitamin A Day Doesn’t Keep The Cardiologist Away

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Just because you pop in those Flintstones vitamins every day doesn't mean you are at any reduced risk of having a heart attack, according to a new study.

Researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that middle-aged or older men who use daily multivitamins for more than 10 years of treatment did not reduce their chances of having a major cardiovascular event like a heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

"Despite uncertainty regarding the long-term health benefits of vitamins, many U.S. adults take vitamin supplements to prevent chronic diseases or for general health and well-being," according to background information in the article.

The study authors said that individuals who believe they are benefiting from the multivitamins may be less inclined to engage in other preventative health behaviors, such as exercise.

"Although multivitamins are used prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency, there is a perception that multivitamins may prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD)," the researchers wrote in a press release. "Observational studies have shown inconsistent associations between regular multivitamin use and CVD, with no long-term clinical trials of multivitamin use."

The study included nearly 15,000 male physicians who were middle-aged or older, with an average age of 64-years-old. The analysis measured the composite end point of major cardiovascular events.

Eleven years after the start of the study, the researchers found that 1,732 men had major cardiovascular events, including 652 cases of heart attack and 643 case of stroke. Also during that time, 829 of the men had cardiovascular death.

They found that there was no significant effect of a daily multivitamin on major cardiovascular events, compared to those men who took placebos during the study period. While there were fewer deaths among multivitamin users, the difference was not statistically significant.

The researchers found no significant effect of a daily multivitamin on rates of congestive heart failure, angina, and coronary revascularization.

Although taking multivitamins on a daily basis won't keep you away from the doctor for a cardiovascular event, it doesn't mean there are no benefits from taking them.

"Whether to take a daily multivitamin requires consideration of an individual's nutritional status, because the aim of supplementation is to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency, plus consideration of other potential effects, including a modest reduction in cancer and other important outcomes in PHS II that will be reported separately," the authors wrote.

Eva M. Lonn, M.D., M.Sc., of McMaster University and Hamilton General Hospital in Hamilton, Texas, wrote in an accompanying editorial that she agrees with the findings.

"Nonetheless, many people with heart disease risk factors or previous CVD events lead sedentary lifestyles, eat processed or fast foods, continue to smoke, and stop taking lifesaving prescribed medications, but purchase and regularly use vitamins and other dietary supplements, in the hope that this approach will prevent a future myocardial infarction or stroke," Lonn said.

"The message needs to remain simple and focused: CVD is largely preventable, and this can be achieved by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco products, and, for those with high risk factor levels or previous CVD events, taking proven, safe, and effective medications," she wrote.