Dietary Supplements and Heart Health

Any discussion of diet or supplements is problematic. In part that’s because it depends on the accuracy with which patients remember and report what they eat. As anyone whose done market research for the food industry can tell you, most people have trouble remembering what they had for lunch, much less for any time period beyond that.

However, when we deal with large numbers of respondents, at least in theory, random memory errors should wash out. For every person who thought they recalled eating a burger for lunch and didn’t, there’s someone who forget they forget they actually did eat it. At least that’s the theory.

So we have a review of 884 research studies involving more than 863,000 patients. The review looked at patient use of dietary supplements to see which supplements has a favorable impact on heart health and on Type 2 diabetes.(1, 2) The top three in terms of impact are:

  • n-3 fatty acid supplements appear to reduce overall risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) as well as the risk of heart attacks, and other events associated with heart disease.
  • Folic acid supplements are associated with reduced risk of stroke.
  • Coenzyme Q10 supplements are associated with reduced risk of death from CVD.

A few other supplements appeared to have positive impacts on one or two of the nine indicators of heart health.

  • Omega-6 fatty acid
  • L-arginine
  • L-citrulline
  • folic acid
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • alpha lipoic acid
  • Anthocyanin
  • curcumin
  • genistein
  • quercetin

Conversely, beta carotene supplements are associated with increased risk of death from CVD. Whether this is because patients in the studies already had adequate or excess amounts of this substance from diet cannot be determined from the data.



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