Stop relying on multivitamins: The supplements do nothing for your heart health, study finds
- Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at data on 2,000 people over 12 years
- The scientists found supplements had no impact at all on heart health
- They warn multivitamins may stop people from dropping bad habits that do affect heart health because they think are doing something good
The vitamin industry is booming, having successfully persuaded millions of people that a few supplements a day could stave off all kinds of life-threatening health issues.
But more and more studies are calling these promises into question.
Now, a new study has taken aim at one particularly popular myth: that multivitamins prevent heart attacks, strokes and other causes of cardiovascular death.
The paper by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at data on 2,000 people over 12 years and found supplements had no impact at all on heart health.
If anything, it could be detrimental, said lead author Joonseok Kim, MD, in a withering attack on the vitamin industry. Those who took multivitamins seemed to feel they were doing something to improve their health, while continuing to smoke and eat junk food, he warns.
The paper by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at data on 2,000 people over 12 years and found supplements had no impact at all on heart health
‘It has been exceptionally difficult to convince people, including nutritional researchers, to acknowledge that multivitamin and mineral supplements don’t prevent cardiovascular diseases,’ said Kim.
‘I hope our study findings help decrease the hype around multivitamin and mineral supplements and encourage people to use proven methods to reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases – such as eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising and avoiding tobacco.’
Kim’s study is an analysis of 18 published studies that have been published by the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
The studies varied in the approaches, with some looking at the impact of vitamins on a cohort of people, while others involved randomized controlled trials.
They found absolutely no benefit to taking vitamins.
‘We meticulously evaluated the body of scientific evidence,’ said Kim, assistant professor of cardiology in the Department of Medicine.
‘We found no clinical benefit of multivitamin and mineral use to prevent heart attacks, strokes or cardiovascular death.’
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But, as Dr Kim lamented, it will take a lot to slow the burgeoning global vitamin industry, which is set to be worth $278 billion in 2024.
Vitamins can hit the market far quicker than drugs, which have to go through an arduous journey of approval via the US Food and Drug Administration. For that reason, vitamin manufacturers technically cannot put any wild claims of proven medical benefits on the label. But that rule has given rise to some creative license with language and small print.
‘Although multivitamin and mineral supplements taken in moderation rarely cause direct harm, we urge people to protect their heart health by understanding their individual risk for heart disease and stroke and working with a healthcare provider to create a plan that uses proven measures to reduce risk,’ Dr Kim said.
‘These include a heart-healthy diet, exercise, tobacco cessation, controlling blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels, and when needed, medical treatment.’
In a statement from the American Heart Association, chief medical officer for prevention, Eduardo Sanchez, MD, hailed the study as a much-needed wake-up call for Americans.
‘Eat a healthy diet for a healthy heart and a long, healthy life,’ Dr Sanchez said.
‘There’s just no substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet with more fruits and vegetables that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar and dietary cholesterol.’
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