Men’s Health: Vitamins fail to lower heart disease risk

Study shows no benefit of using supplements to decrease homocysteine levels

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Another study has debunked the idea that vitamin supplements can be used to lower heart disease risk. In the study, B vitamins lowered levels of homocysteine — a substance in the blood linked with heart disease — but didn’t actually reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Norwegian researchers randomly assigned more than 3,000 people with heart disease to take several combinations of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 or inactive placebo pills. Similar proportions of people in the vitamin and placebo groups died or suffered a non-fatal heart attack or stroke.

Dr. Marta Ebbing, a study researcher at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, says the study “confirms and adds additional evidence to findings in similar trials that have shown no impact of lowering homocysteine.”

“The idea that one could cure our ailments by taking vitamins is appealing, but it hasn’t worked out,” says Dr. Daniel Jones, president of the American Heart Association and dean of the school of medicine at the University of Mississippi in Jackson. “We aren’t any closer to understanding the role of homocysteine in cardiovascular disease today than we were 15 years ago when it was first suggested that levels of homocysteine were in some way related to the disease process.”

He says it is possible that starting children on increased doses of vitamins might have an impact later in life, but that study is unlikely to be done. “Outside of a clinical trial, I have never ordered a test for homocysteine levels in a clinical setting and I don’t plan to do so,” he says.