Ask the Experts

Can Multivitamins Help Prevent Heart Attacks?

by Wellness Letter  

Q: Is there evidence that taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement helps prevent heart attacks and strokes?

A: No. In July 2018, an analysis of 18 observational studies and clinical trials involving more than 2 million people over an average of 12 years concluded that multivitamin/mineral supplements do not reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or cardiovascular deaths. The only apparent benefit from multivitamins was a slight reduction in heart attacks, though this disappeared when the analysis was limited to clinical trials, not observational studies. Observational studies on supplements are more likely to suggest benefits because people who take supplements tend to have healthy habits (such as eating more produce), and researchers can’t control for all such confounding factors. In contrast, participants in clinical trials are randomly assigned the supplement or a placebo to eliminate confounding factors. The paper was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

And in June 2018, a review of clinical trials on various vitamin and mineral supplements, including multivitamins, for the prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease concluded that there was no clear evidence of benefit from any of them, except perhaps folic acid for strokes. It was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Among the key individual studies, a 2012 Harvard clinical trial had 14,641 male doctors over 50 (part of the long-running Physicians’ Health Study) take either a basic daily multi for “seniors” or a placebo for a decade. The multi group had no reduction in heart attacks, strokes, or cardiovascular deaths. Similarly, a 2009 observational study of nearly 162,000 postmenopausal participants in the Women’s Health Initiative found no cardiovascular benefits in those taking a multi for eight years.

This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.

Also see Should You Still Take That Multi?