By Steve Borzak, MD, FACC
This week saw the publication of yet another study showing that daily vitamins did nothing to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and vascular disease. This particular study, TACT, also tested chelation therapy and found a modest benefit. In this analysis, very high doses of antioxidants were no better than placebo in reducing the chance of vascular events.
There are now a large collection of studies looking at daily multivitamins which have all concluded that in otherwise healthy people, the addition of a multivitamin is worthless at preventing MI, stroke or cardiac death, and almost certainly not likely to have a meaningful reduction in the incidence of cancer.
We can conclude that daily multivitamins are not helpful in general. There are some specific areas where we should be cautious:
- a specific combination of anti-oxidant vitamins (the “AREDS formula”) has been shown to slow the progression of macular degeneration in patients with advanced drusen or early macular degeneration
- pregnant women should take folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects
- vitamin D remains controversial. It may be very important for bone disease. There is no good quality data showing that vitamin D reduces vascular events, though the theory has been proposed. Large-scale studies are underway to see if vitamin D supplementation reduces vascular events, and we should await the results of these studies before using vitamin D for THIS purpose.