Daily Multivitamin Use Doesn't Prevent Cardiovascular Disease in Men

Mashawnda Dowell

Men age 50 and older who take multivitamins every day gain no added protection against heart attacks, stroke, or cardiovascular death.

Results from a late-breaking clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association 2012 Scientific Sessions in Los Angeles, California, reveal that for men age 50 and older, taking a daily multivitamin does not prevent cardiovascular disease.

Multivitamin consumption is practiced by a large portion of US adults, and although vitamins are taken to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency, there is a perception that daily usage may prevent the development of major morbidity and mortality, including cardiovascular disease (CVD).

While some studies have produced inconsistent evidence of the effects of daily multivitamin use, there are no long-term clinical trials that have provided conclusive evidence regarding the long term effects of daily multivitamin usage on cardiovascular health.

The Physicians’ Health Study II, which enlisted 14,641 male physicians in the United States who were age 50 years or older, is the largest scale clinical trial to date examining the daily use of multivitamins and cardiovascular disease. Most of the patients were Caucasian, and half of them took a daily multivitamin. The other half took placebo daily.

Study results were published in JAMA in an article titled “A Randomized Trial of a Multivitamin in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men: The Physicians Study II,

“Multivitamins are the most common supplements taken by at least one-third of all US adults, and while they are typically used to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiency, there is an unproven belief that they may have benefits on other chronic diseases, including heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death”, said Howard D. Sesso, ScD, MPH, lead researcher and Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

The physician participants in the study were followed for an average of 11.2 years to determine if the daily consumption of multivitamins affected the occurrence of a heart attack, stroke, or other major cardiovascular events.

Study participants experienced more than 1,700 major cardiovascular disease events during trial follow up, leading investigators to conclude that taking a daily vitamin did not reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, or cardiovascular death.

“The majority of the men in our trial appeared to have, on average, good dietary habits. It’s not certain whether the findings would extend to younger men, women, and other racial and ethnic groups, “said J. Michael Gaziano, MD, MPH, chief of the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the co-author of this study.