Diabetes Self-Management Blog

As we’ve previously reported on DiabetesSelfManagement.com, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes, with approximately 68% dying from a heart attack or stroke. But as new research in The Journal of the Medical American Association indicates, taking a daily multivitamin may not provide heart protection — at least in men — as many believe.

One-third of people in the United States take a multivitamin. To determine whether long-term use of multivitamins decreases the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, nonfatal stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease in men, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at almost 15,000 male physicians age 50 and older from the Physicians’ Health Study (PHS) II (a large study to test the effects of multivitamin supplementation on cardiovascular health and cancer). At the start of the study in 1997, roughly half the participants were randomly assigned to take a multivitamin, while the other half were assigned to placebo (inactive treatment).

After more than 10 years of follow-up, 1,732 men had had major cardiovascular events, including 652 men who’d had a heart attack, 643 men who’d had a stroke, and 829 men who died from a cardiovascular cause. (Some of the men experienced multiple cardiovascular events.) In analyzing the rates of these events in each group, the researchers found that there was no significant effect of multivitamins on major cardiovascular events, heart attack, or stroke.

Additionally, use of a daily multivitamin was not associated with a reduction in cardiovascular death rates, or rates of congestive heart failure, angina (chest pain), or coronary revascularization (a procedure used to improve blood flow in the heart). There were fewer total deaths among the men using multivitamins, but the difference was not statistically significant. Furthermore, the effect of multivitamin use was the same for participants who began the study with cardiovascular disease as it was for those who did not have cardiovascular disease at the start.

According to lead study author Howard D. Sesso, ScD, MPH, “The findings from our large clinical trial do not support the use of a common daily multivitamin supplement for the sole purpose of preventing cardiovascular disease in men. The decision to take a daily multivitamin should be made in consultation with one’s doctor and consideration given to an individual’s nutritional status and other potential effects of multivitamins, including the previously reported modest reduction in cancer risk.”

For more information, read the article “Daily Multivitamins Do Not Reduce Heart Risks in Men” or see the study’s abstract in The Journal of the American Medical Association. And to learn more about multivitamins, see the article “Choosing a Multivitamin.”

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