Recent articles in Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) and Annals of Internal Medicine have brought many people asking our opinions as physicians about vitamins for heart health. It turns out, that as with many questions related to health and vitamins, the answer depends on the individual.
The JAMA study, as commented upon in Consumer Report and other major news outlets suggested that certain supplements to prevent heart attacks do not work. That is a very presumptive take away and in our eyes does not at all mean that there is no role for vitamins in prevention of heart attacks. This group of researchers examined a large group (over 70,000) people retrospectively (i.e. looking back at data collected for other research) and found that those people taking fish oil supplements did not have lower rates of heart disease than those who were not. Sounds logical and conclusive, right?
Not exactly… The study design itself had some limits. It only looked at people taking these supplements for an average of 4 years for one (some as little as one year). That’s not very long in the scheme of things, especially in a population of people in their middle ages or older, who are likely to be dealing with heart disease. No one would expect anyone to be able to undo a lifetime of potential risk factors for heart disease to be miraculously undone in a few years. If we could invent the vitamin to prevent heart disease in that span of time, it would be a miracle!
In addition, they did not look closely at the quality of the supplements or even the amounts of fish oil people were taking. They were in fact taking a large range of doses, as low as 226mg per day, when the therapeutic recommended dose is up to 1200mg of EPA. Thus, we find it is particularly hard to extrapolate much useful information from this study.
The second recent study, in Annals actually did find that taking Fish Oil reduced risk of heart attack. This study looked at a retrospective group of over 900,000 people and found that Omega three intake did have an association with a reduction in heart attacks and coronary heart disease. In addition they found that folic acid supplementation was associated with a lower risk for stroke. This is in keeping with some previous studies that suggested that fish oil could reduce cardiovascular events. There have been other less conclusive studies done on the subject.
There may be other benefits to fish oil beyond a supplement to prevent heart disease. The EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid may have anitinflammatory effects that have benefits in arthritis, memory enhancement and other aspects of brain health as it relates to anxiety,depression and ADD.
There was an aspect of the study that suggested that vitamin D and calcium supplements (taken together in high doses) may result in increased risk of stroke. This is not news to us. We know that taking excessive doses of supplemental calcium can cause problems. We also know that overdoing vitamin D can be bad for you and cause major issues. Yet most of us need some supplemental vitamin D, otherwise we are deficient. Thus figuring out how much each person needs is essential. Take our vitamin quiz to figure out which vitamins and in which amounts you need.
So are there in fact vitamins to prevent heart disease? There are some compelling studies to suggest that the right combination of vitamins can help your heart. A study in The Journal of Nutrition did suggest that women who took a multivitamin for over three years had lower risk of death from heart related causes. This data, in combination with many other studies (including the above mentioned studies in JAMA and AMA) suggest that there are in fact some vitamins that in the right amounts for the right people may have benefit in protecting against heart disease. These vitamins may include proper doses of fish oil, folic acid, magnesium, vitamin D and others. The question is always who exactly should be taking what vitamins. It is here that a personalized approach to vitamins comes in to play. We are not all the same and we all have different vitamin needs based on who we are. Take our vitamin quiz to get the right vitamins for you.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.