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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Multivitamins Do Not Prevent Heart Diseases: 12/03/2012

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Here is what's new this week in MedlinePlus.listen

Taking daily multivitamins does not result in cardiovascular (or heart-related) disease prevention for middle-aged men, finds a comprehensive study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study (which followed 14,500 middle-aged physicians for at least 11 years) found an over-the-counter multivitamin offered no health benefits (compared to a placebo) regarding the frequency of combined major cardiovascular disease events, as well as the frequency of stroke, cardiovascular death, total mortality, and heart attacks.

The study is part of the larger Physicians Health Study II, a nationwide assessment of the risks and benefits of aspirin, and other over-the-counter drugs and supplements, on cancer, heart-related diseases, and age-related eye diseases. The Physicians Health Study II began in 1997; all participants are physicians. The study is co-funded by the National Institutes of Health and diverse industry sponsors.

In the current study, the participating physicians were men who began the study at age 50 or older. The study’s participants included 754 men with a history of cardiovascular disease at the time of the study’s randomization (into multivitamin and placebo groups).

The study’s 10 authors write (and we quote): ‘we found that after more than a decade of daily multivitamin use among middle age and older men, daily multivitamin use did not reduce the primary end point of major cardiovascular events’ (end of quote).

The authors add (and we quote): ‘these data do not support multivitamin use to prevent cardiovascular disease, demonstrating the importance of long-term clinical trials of commonly used nutritional supplements’ (end of quote).

The authors also report the study (and we quote): ‘represents to our knowledge the only large-scale, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a commonly available multivitamin on the prevention of chronic disease’ (end of quote).

An editorial accompanying the study suggests the study’s findings may be applicable to women and other population subgroups in wealthier nations.

The editorial adds the findings should not be interpreted as a repudiation of the therapeutic impact of taking multivitamins. The editorial’s author notes some other recently published findings — also based on Physicians Health Study II — suggest a modest reduction in cancer occurred for male physicians with a prior history of cancer who took a daily multivitamin.

The editorial adds about 39 percent of the U.S. population took daily multivitamins or multiminerals in 2003-2006 (the last years when data are available).

Nevertheless, the editorial’s author explains multivitamins may be a distraction from more therapeutic behaviors to prevent heart diseases. The editorial’s author notes adults often use multivitamins in the hope they will prevent heart attacks or a stroke. Instead, the editorial’s author writes (and we quote): ‘the message needs to remain simple and focused: cardiovascular disease is largely preventable, and this can be achieved by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco products, and for those with high risk factor levels or previous cardiovascular disease events, taking proven, safe, and effective medications’ (end of quote).

Many of the editorial’s recommendations are reinforced and supplemented in the opening section of MedlinePlus.gov’s heart diseases-prevention health topic page. A recommended link that describes five medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease (that is provided by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) is provided within the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s heart diseases-prevention health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s heart diseases-prevention health topic page also contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the heart diseases-prevention health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s heart diseases-prevention health topic page, type ‘heart disease prevention’ in the search box at the top of MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to heart diseases, which is accessible by typing ‘heart disease’ in the search box at the top of MedlinePlus.gov’s home page.

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