Q: I am trying to lower my cholesterol and make other heart-healthy lifestyle choices. Should I also be taking a special “heart-formulated” multi-vitamin supplement?
A: It is fine to choose one of these heart-formulated multi-vitamins to use as your regular multi-vitamin. However, it is important to keep three things in mind:
1. Research has yet to show a direct benefit between individual nutrients and heart disease prevention. This could be because all foods are a combination of nutrients. Every food we eat (especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains) provides an assortment of nutrients that interact to provide risk-reduction benefits much stronger than the sum of their parts.
2. Many consumers don’t realize that no regulators oversee the safety or effectiveness of over-the-counter vitamin supplements. This simply means that while many companies may market multi-vitamins that claim to be formulated for heart health, or any other condition, these are unsubstantiated claims from an unregulated industry.
3. “Added” ingredients in certain heart-healthy vitamin supplements, such as phytosterols (or plant sterols), have been shown to lower cholesterol levels by 8 to 15%. However, a very large amount (2 to 3 grams) of phytosterols would be needed daily to reap this benefit. Phytosterols are much weaker than the statin drugs routinely used to treat high cholesterol, so it is important that you don’t stop taking any medications your physician prescribes.
One last thing to consider: While a daily supplement is a good back-up to make certain you get adequate levels of certain vitamins and minerals, it is no substitute for a healthy diet.
Source: Cardiologist Dr. Benico Barzilai, Section Head of Clinical Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, widely considered to be the #1 heart institute in North America
But wait . . . there’s more:
In the HDL-Atherosclerosis Treatment Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, subjects with demonstrated coronary artery disease on the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs simvastatin/niacin plus an antioxidant cocktail (vitamin E, β-carotene, vitamin C, and selenium) had a 0.7% progression in blockage after three years, compared with 0.4% regression in the group on only simvastatin/niacin.
One theory held that the anti-oxidants may have inhibited the benefits of the statin-niacin combination.
Based on this trial and many like it, the American Heart Association does not support the use of anti-oxidants for the prevention of heart disease.