Multivitamin disappoints in first long-term CV trial

Taking a daily multivitamin does not reduce the risk for major cardiovascular (CV) events or mortality in men, research suggests.

Findings from the Physicians' Health Study II revealed that over a median follow-up period of 11.2 years, people who took a daily multivitamin had a similar rate of cardiovascular (CV) events (nonfatal myocardial infarction [MI], nonfatal stroke, CV disease [CVD] mortality) to those who took a placebo.

Howard Sesso (Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues, who reported their findings at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Los Angeles, California, USA also found that the daily multivitamin did not significantly affect total mortality rates.

The trial included 14,641 men aged 50 years or older among whom a total of 1732 CV events occurred during follow-up.

The multivitamin had no impact on major CV events irrespective of whether or not men have a history of CVD at baseline.

The authors say that this is the first large-scale, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to test the long-term effects of a commonly available multivitamin on the prevention of chronic disease.

"These data do not support multivitamin use to prevent CVD, demonstrating the importance of long-term clinical trials of commonly used nutritional supplements," remark Sesso et al in JAMA.

In a related commentary, editorialist Eva Lonn (McMaster University, Ontario, Canada) says: "Although it appears unlikely that the results would differ in women or in other population subsets, at least in developed countries, or when using other multivitamin formulations, further data are needed."

She points out that many people with risk factors for heart disease or previous CV events lead sedentary lifestyles, eat processed or fast foods, continue to smoke, and stop taking prescribed medications, but purchase and regularly use vitamins and other dietary supplements in the hope of preventing future MI or stroke.

"This distraction from effective CVD prevention is the main hazard of using vitamins and other unproven supplements," she warns.

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