Antioxidants are Heart Healthy: Large studies show preventative action

Large, epidemiologic studies indicate that among the healthy population, the long-term use of antioxidant supplements, specifically vitamin E and vitamin C, helps protect against heart disease.

“It is puzzling how the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee could recommend against the use of antioxidant supplements for primary prevention of heart disease, in the face of evidence such as this,” said Annette Dickinson, PhD, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition. “Even if recent secondary intervention trials have been disappointing, those results do not trump the epidemiological data on primary prevention.” (Primary prevention is avoiding or delaying heart disease in healthy people; secondary prevention is avoiding a second heart attack or stroke in people who have already had one.)

In the last decade alone, many studies have indicated significant benefits from antioxidants. A 1993 study of more than 80,000 nurses found that women who took vitamin E supplements for more than two years had a 41% reduction in risk of major coronary disease. Another 1993 study of almost 40,000 male health professionals found that men who took vitamin E supplements for at least two years had a 37% reduction in risk of coronary disease. In 1996, a study in more than 11,000 elderly people found that those who used vitamin E supplements had a 47% reduced risk of coronary disease mortality, and those who used supplements of both vitamin E and vitamin C had a 53% reduced risk of coronary mortality.

For overall health maintenance as well as potential protection against some chronic diseases, the Council for Responsible Nutrition recommends consuming the best possible diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables and two servings of fish per week; getting regular exercise; and supplementing those healthy habits with what UCLA’s David Heber, MD, has called the “basic four” nutritional supplements: a multivitamin, extra calcium, extra vitamin E, and extra vitamin C.

Council for Responsible Nutrition, Aug 4, 2004