Some supplements are better than others when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease, according to a new meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Using data from 884 studies and more than 883,000 patients, Brown University researchers systematically reviewed all of the existing evidence on micronutrients taken as dietary supplements. After evaluating 27 different types, they identified several that reduced the risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attacks or strokes, as well as others that offered no benefit or even had a negative effect.
This analysis represents the first comprehensive, evidence-based map quantifying the potential effects of micronutrient supplements on heart health, lead researcher Simin Liu, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Brown University, said in a statement. Press. “Our study highlights the importance of micronutrient diversity and balancing health benefits and risks,” he said.
Omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and CoQ10 had the strongest evidence for heart benefits
The randomized controlled intervention trials included in the search found the strongest evidence of heart benefits in the following supplements:
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), which decrease mortality from cardiovascular disease
- Folic acid, which reduces the risk of stroke
- Coenzyme Q10, marketed as CoQ10, which reduced all-cause mortality (death)
Other supplements showing evidence of cardiovascular risk reduction were omega-6 fatty acids, L-arginine, L-citrulline, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, alpha-lipoic acid, melatonin, catechin, curcumin, flavanol, genistein and quercetin.
Unnecessary and Potentially Harmful Supplements for Heart Health
Research has found that some supplements are not associated with heart benefits. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium showed no effect on long-term cardiovascular disease outcomes (or type 2 diabetes risk).
One finding of particular concern: beta-carotene supplements were associated with increased all-cause mortality.
The study authors called for large, high-quality interventional trials to study the long-term effects of certain micronutrients.
“It’s important to identify the optimal mix of micronutrients because not all of them are beneficial and some may even have harmful effects,” Liu said.
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Antioxidant Supplements Are Not Equivalent to Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Antioxidant supplements are thought to play a role in heart health because these nutrients work to reduce what’s called “oxidative stress,” a known contributor to many types of cardiovascular disease. Programs like the Mediterranean Diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which contain foods naturally high in antioxidants, are both consistent with the most recent dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association.
But the nutrients in supplements aren’t exactly the same as those in foods, and results from previous studies investigating the benefits of antioxidant supplements have been inconsistent — one reason the supplements haven’t been widely adopted. in preventive cardiology, according to the authors.
Previously, research on micronutrient supplementation has mostly focused on the health effects of a single vitamin or mineral or a few at a time, Dr. Liu said. “We decided to take a comprehensive and systematic approach to reviewing all publicly available studies reporting on all micronutrients, including phytochemicals and antioxidant supplements, and their effects on cardiovascular risk factors as well as multiple cardiovascular illnesses.”
Interested in taking supplements? Check with your doctor first
“It’s a good idea to check with your doctor before taking any supplements,” says Elizabeth Bradley, MD, medical director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who was not involved in this research.
If your doctor recommends an omega-3 fish oil supplement, be aware that the quality of different brands may vary, says Dr. Bradley. Your supplier may have suggestions on what to look for in labeling. Or you can research different brands on independent websites such as ConsumerLab.com, which reviews and rates supplements.
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