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Supplements Probably Aren’t Helping Your Heart, Research Suggests

10 July 2019

Researchers looked at other popular diets, such as the low-meat Mediterranean diet, and found that most did little to improve heart health. They found that most vitamins, minerals, supplements, and diets examined had no protective effects against cardiovascular health.

"This analysis further reveals that despite in-depth sales and use of various dietary supplements, there's a lack of scientific proof supporting the usage of many dietary supplements", stated Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, an affiliate professor of worldwide health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not concerned with the analysis.

Supplements combining calcium and vitamin D appeared to increase the risk of having a stroke by 17 per cent.

Researchers from West Virginia University analyzed 277 randomized controlled trials comprising almost a million people to determine the effects of 16 different nutritional supplements and eight dietary interventions on mortality and cardiovascular outcomes in adults.

Study authors were especially surprised by data showing no heart health benefits from dietary interventions such as the Mediterranean diet, reduced saturated fat intake, modified fat intake, and reduced dietary fat intake.

Not all supplements and diets are worthless, the review found. Folic acid supplements reduce the risk of a stroke, and omega-3 fatty acids were linked to reducing myocardial infraction (MI) and coronary heart disease.

While vitamin and supplement use have become the norm for many when it comes to managing an array of health conditions, experts have warned that there's inadequate data about the effectiveness of these interventions when it comes to staving off heart disease or helping people live longer. "Different reviews reach different conclusions", she said. "Pooling results from all the trials did not support cardiovascular risk". So the totality of evidence is still inconclusive about benefits of this particular eating style.

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.

The new research, which included nearly a million patients overall, also found limited evidence that a low-salt diet may reduce the risk of death, but in an editorial accompanying the review, experts called that a "peculiar and controversial finding". Because these records depend on patient memories and estimates, they can often be inaccurate.

"Unfortunately, the current study leaves us with the same foggy conditions that we started with", write the authors of an accompanying editorial. U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines do not recommend the routine use of any dietary supplements to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

For now, Khan suggests that sticking to a wholesome meal plan may be the best course of action.

"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.

Supplements Probably Aren’t Helping Your Heart, Research Suggests