In the News

November 14, 2008

Vitamins – two new studies show no benefit

Contributed by Joy Messick, R.N.

Reports from two large studies of vitamin supplementation were presented at the recent American Heart Association Conference.  The Physicians Health Study IIrandomly divided 14,641 male physicians in the U.S. into 4 groups.  One group took 400 IU of Vitamin E every other day; the second group took 500 mg of Vitamin C daily; a third group took both Vitamin E and Vitamin C, and the fourth group took a placebo.  The study looked at major heart and vascular events, including nonfatal heart attacks, nonfatal strokes and cardiovascular death.  The study was done to determine if antioxidants vitamins such as E and C might be of value in reducing heart and vascular disease.  

The study participants were followed for 8 years.  In the end neither Vitamin E nor C had any beneficial effect on the outcomes.  But vitamin E was associated with an increase in strokes caused by bleeding in the brain.

Below, another disappointing study of antioxidant vitamins

Vitamins E and C in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men: The Physicians' Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial.

The second study, called the Search Trial (Study of the Effectiveness of Additional Reductions in Cholesterol and Homocysteine), looked at more than 12,000 patients divided into two groups.  One group took 2 mg of folic acid plus 1 mg of vitamin B12 daily.  The second group took a placebo.  All the study participants had a hisotry of coronary disaease.  The study showed that although large doses of folic acid are safe and do reduce homocysteine levels (an amino acid in the blood which is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease), there were no cardiovascular benefits.   There was no reduction in major heart or vascular events, including heart attacks, strokes, death, need for a stent or balloon procedure, or need for heart or leg bypass surgery.   The study also included a statin arm, using simvastatin vs. placebo, and that showed important benefit in reducing cardiac events, as has been the case with all statin studies.

The results add to previous studies which also showed that vitamin supplementation to reduce homocysteine levels does not have a favorable effect on heart and vascular disease.