WASHINGTON - Contrary to popular belief, daily use of vitamin supplements does not reduce risk of cardiovascular disease among men middle aged and older, a study released Monday says.
It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and followed 14,641 men - doctors working in the US - whose average age was 64 at the start of the study in 1998 and monitored them for about 11 years.
Half of them, chosen at random, took multivitamins and the other half a placebo, said the authors. They called their study the most extensive ever done on the usefulness of multivitamins for prevent chronic disease.
In the period under study, 2,757, or 18.8 per cent, died of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. These included 1,345 taking vitamins and 1,412 taking the placebo.
The researchers from Harvard University concluded that taking multivitamins made no difference when it came to warding off cardiovascular illness or stroke.
The lower number of deaths among vitamin-takers was not statistically significant, they said.
In an accompanying editorial, Eva Lonn of McMaster University and Hamilton General Hospital in Ontario, Canada, wrote that "robust data from multiple trials clearly confirm that (cardiovascular disease) cannot be prevented or treated with vitamins."
"Nonetheless, many people with heart disease risk factors or previous CVD events lead sedentary lifestyles, eat processed or fast foods, continue to smoke, and stop taking lifesaving prescribed medications, but purchase and regularly use vitamins and other dietary supplements, in the hope that this approach will prevent a future myocardial infarction or stroke," she wrote.
"This distraction from effective CVD prevention is the main hazard of using vitamins and other unproven supplements," Lonn added.