While millions of Americans regularly take vitamins and other dietary supplements, the findings of a new study suggest the products often provide no benefit in actually reducing the risk of heart disease, heart attacks or death.
In findings published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from West Virginia University, as well as Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic, found that while some modest benefits are provided by dietary supplements, most have no heart benefit or reduce the risk of death.
Researchers conducted an analysis of randomized controlled trials focusing on the effects of dietary supplements and various diets on death or cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, and coronary heart disease. The data included 277 clinical trials using 24 different interventions including more than 990,000 participants.
The studies evaluated the use of supplements like vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C, multivitamins, antioxidants, and iron as well as diets focusing on reduced fat intake, the Mediterranean diet, reduced saturated fat diet, reduced salt diet, and others.
The majority of vitamins, supplements and diets had no significant effect on death or heart disease. However, the study did conclude several supplements and one diet did contribute to reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
The review indicated multiple studies showed a reduced salt intake diet decreased the risk of death and cardiovascular death in hypertensive patients. Studies showed the reduced salt diet decreased the risk of death by 10% and the risk of heart disease by 33%.
Other studies showed taking omega-3 supplements was linked to a reduced risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease by 8% and 7% respectively. Similarly, taking folic acid was associated with a 20% lower risk for stroke.
Conversely, taking supplements that combined calcium and vitamin D together increased a person’s risk of stroke by 17%. However, taken separately the supplements had no effect, positively or negatively.
The remaining vitamins, minerals, supplements, and diets did not reduce a person’s risk of death from heart attack or stroke or protect a person from heart disease.
Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2018 echoed these findings, indicating most people gain no benefit from taking vitamins or dietary supplements.
Estimates indicate roughly 52% of Americans take at least one vitamin or dietary supplement every day. Some estimates indicate nearly three-quarters of Americans take dietary supplements. Americans spend nearly $31 billion on supplements each year.
While there is some evidence certain supplements can positively impact the risk of death and cardiovascular outcomes, not all supplements do. Most supplements carry no benefit at all. This holds true for the many types of diets Americans follow as well.
Researchers of the study warn the “cure” people are looking for in dietary supplements simply is not there. Consumers should instead focus on eating a healthy well-rounded diet and not turn to supplements unless specifically directed to by a doctor.