Most Supplements Offer Little Protection Against Heart Disease

Henrietta Brewer
July 10, 2019

Researchers examined data from 277 trials with a total of nearly one million participants to assess the effects of 16 different nutritional supplements and 8 dietary interventions on the risk of heart problems and strokes. The remaining 13 supplements studied showed no benefit or harm.

The popularity of nutritional supplements skyrocketed in the United States over the past years, with about 3 in 4 people now taking them.

"The majority of supplements have no effect on improving survival or reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke", Dr. Safi Khan, an assistant clinical professor of internal medicine at West Virginia University, said in a statement. All these works were aimed at identifying the relationship between taking dietary supplements and reducing the risk of premature death, as well as the development of cardiovascular diseases.

"This research further shows that despite extensive sales and use of different dietary supplements, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting the use of many supplements", said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, an associate professor of worldwide health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the research.

While current USA dietary guidelines do recommend healthy eating patterns, routine supplement use isn't recommended to cut the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic issues. Supplements that came out with positive results were omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid, which were found to protect against heart diseases and stroke.

Satjit Bhusri, MD, a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, argues that "more powerful, diet specific trials" have demonstrated heart-protective gains from the Mediterranean diet. No significant effect on mortality or cardiovascular outcomes was seen for other nutritional supplements or dietary interventions.

Conversely, combined calcium plus vitamin D intake increased the risk for stroke.

Most diets, like modified fat intake, the Mediterranean diet, and reduced saturated fat intake, had no effect on the heart at all.

The researchers found some evidence that reduced salt intake was protective for all-cause mortality in participants with normal blood pressure and that omega-3, long-chain fatty acids were protective for myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease. Reduced salt intake seems to lower blood pressure, according to a 2013 review, and "the science behind sodium reduction is clear", according to the American Heart Association. The diet is renowned and popular for its promise to reduce the risk of various ailments, including cardiovascular disease. Other supplements like the combination of Vitamin D and calcium tablets, were found to increase the incidence of heart diseases. Some experts also warn that certain diets may not be good for the heart and only eating a healthy balanced diet is the key to overall health.

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