DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
Antioxidant Supplements for Heart Disease Prevention in Women
Carolyn Janet Crandall, MD, MS, FACP
William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Should women take antioxidant supplements?
The idea of antioxidants for heart protection sounds
great. This is because in the research laboratory oxidation plays a big role in formation of
atherosclerotic plaque (the
cholesterol-formed substance that can eventually rupture to cause a heart
If oxidation is bad, shouldn't antioxidant supplements be helpful for the
In the last several years, the
long-awaited reliable scientific studies (large, controlled clinical studies) were finally performed to test whether
antioxidant supplements really protect the heart. Heart protective effects of
antioxidant supplements have been tested on more than 100,000 people in recent
well-designed trials. To date, trials have been completed for vitamin E
(5 large trials), beta-carotene (3 large trials), and antioxidant mixtures (2
large trials). Each of these trials showed no effect of antioxidant supplements
on cardiovascular disease occurrence. Only a few controlled clinical studies
showed beneficial effect for vitamin E (with or without vitamin C), and those studies were
performed in people who already had heart disease, or were at high risk of heart
disease. As a result, the American Heart Association released a "Science
Advisory" regarding antioxidant vitamin supplements and cardiovascular disease.
The statement concluded that scientific data does not justify the use of
antioxidant vitamin supplements for reducing cardiovascular risk.