Multivitamin Supplements Shown to Help Prevent Heart Attacks
Healthnotes Newswire (October 9, 2003)-Men and women who take a daily multivitamin have fewer heart attacks than those who do not, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2003;133:2650-4).
It has long been known that healthful habits are essential to cardiac health. Regular exercise, not smoking, and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber have all been shown in numerous studies to be effective means for protecting the heart. Several nutrients have been identified as critical components of a heart-healthy diet. These include folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, and antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. High intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood, and thereby lower the risk of heart disease. High dietary and supplemental intake of antioxidant nutrients have also been found to be protective in some, but not all, studies. Multivitamin supplements generally contain B-vitamins (including folic acid), vitamin C, and vitamin E, and many also contain trace minerals and other nutrients. Three studies, all conducted in the United States, have examined the effect of multivitamin use on the risk of heart disease; one showed a protective effect but the others did not.
The current study was conducted in Sweden. Participants included 1,296 men and women who had experienced a first heart attack more than one month previously. They were compared with 1,685 men and women who had never experienced a heart attack. All of the participants answered a detailed questionnaire regarding physical activity, diet, smoking, and use of supplements. The use of multivitamin supplements was associated with a significant reduction in risk of nonfatal heart attack. Men taking multivitamin supplements were 22% less likely to experience a nonfatal heart attack than men who did not. In women, the risk reduction was 33%.
The results of this study suggest that the use of multivitamin supplements reduces the risk of nonfatal heart attack, adding to the evidence that multivitamin supplements might prevent heart disease. Controlled trials are needed to confirm these findings. In contrast to previous studies, the participants in the current study were drawn from a population known to consume relatively few fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, dietary consumption of folic acid is likely to be lower in Sweden than in the United States, where commonly eaten foods are fortified with this nutrient. Future studies may determine whether some populations benefit more than others from multivitamin supplement use.
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