AHA Says Scientific Evidence Does Not Yet Support Recommending Vitamin E Or Other Antioxidant Supplements

DALLAS, Feb. 1 -- Results of several studies now show that fruits, vegetables and whole grains that contain antioxidants may lower an individual's risk for heart disease, but it is still unclear whether antioxidant supplements, taken as vitamin pills, have a similar benefit.

As a result, the American Heart Association, in a new scientific advisory published in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, says that current evidence is not strong enough to recommend antioxidant vitamin pills for the general public.

"The American Heart Association continues to recommend that people increase their consumption of antioxidant-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains," says the statement's author, Diane Tribble, Ph.D., a member of the American Heart Association's volunteer nutrition committee and staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, Calif.

"Although some studies have shown that foods rich in antioxidants are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, that doesn't necessarily mean that high levels of antioxidants achieved by consuming vitamin pills will provide similar benefits -- or are even safe," says Tribble.

Discussion has recently focused on how antioxidant vitamins may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Antioxidants -- such as vitamins E, C and beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A -- have potential health-promoting properties because they counteract oxidants, which many researchers believe play an important role in causing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the disease process that can lead to heart disease and stroke. Though the data are far from complete, a large component of the population is taking antioxidant vitamin pills, according to Tribble.

Foods high in vitamins C, E, and/or beta-carotene have also been shown to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber, characteristics that accor

Contact: Brian Henry
American Heart Association

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