Heart-healthy Vitamins: Ally or False Friend?

Benefits of heart health vitamins remain unproven

With the selection of specially formulated heart health vitamins available today, it’s not surprising that people are wondering if they should switch from their usual multivitamin to one that claims to offer cardiac benefits.

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No harm, no foul

While heart health vitamins or other multivitamins can provide a good backup source of vitamins and minerals, they are no substitute for a healthy diet of nutrient-rich foods.

“It is fine to choose one of these heart-formulated multivitamins to use as your regular multivitamin,” says clinical cardiologist Benico Barzilai, MD.

There are a few things to consider, though.

No specific heart benefit

Research has not yet shown that the isolated nutrients in heart health vitamins or supplements help prevent heart disease. Eating healthy foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, gives you the nutrients you need for your heart function, along with other elements, such as fiber and water, all of which are essential to your overall and cardiac health.

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Dr. Barzilai says that the combination of nutrients in healthy foods “provides risk-reduction benefits much stronger than the sum of their parts.”

Don’t short-change your health by neglecting nutrient-rich foods and relying too much on vitamins and supplements.

Fact versus suggestion

Supplement manufacturers do a good job selling the idea of health, but so-called heart health vitamins are not tested for efficacy. Dr. Barzilai explains: “The U.S. Food & Drug Administration does not oversee the safety or effectiveness of over-the-counter vitamin supplements. While many companies may market a multivitamin that is said to be formulated for heart health, or any other condition, the FDA has not evaluated these claims.”

Prescribed medications trump supplements

Some ingredients included in heart-formulated vitamins, such as phytosterols, or plant sterols, have been shown to lower cholesterol. However, it would take large amounts of these ingredients to provide the benefit.

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This is why you can’t rely on supplements to do what your statin medications do. Don’t stop taking your prescribed medications in the hope that these vitamins will do the job.

“Phytosterols are much weaker than the statin drugs that are routinely used to treat high cholesterol, so it is important that you don’t stop taking any medications your physician prescribes,” emphasizes Dr. Barzilai.

Keep on the right path

Maintain a healthy diet, take all prescribed medications, and follow the advice of your physician for your heart health. In addition, if you want to include a multi-vitamin, you can use specially formulated heart vitamins as a supporting player in your overall health.

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