One of these may reduce your risk of cancer - but not heart disease.

Recently, we published the results from the first large-scale clinical trial to evaluate the long-term effects of multivitamins for men. When it comes to cancer researchers found that taking a daily multivitamin modestly but significantly reduced the risk of developing cancer and possibly reduced cancer-related deaths among men over 50; however, they also found that multivitamins did not appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in the same group of men.

“The findings from our large clinical trial do not support the use of a common daily multivitamin supplement for the sole purpose of preventing cardiovascular disease in men,” said Dr. Howard D. Sesso, lead author and an associate epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH. “The decision to take a daily multivitamin should be made in consultation with one’s doctor and consideration given to an individual’s nutritional status and other potential effects of multivitamins, including our previously reported modest but significant reduction in cancer risk.”

Researchers had nearly 15,000 men over the age of 50 take either a multivitamin or a placebo every day for more than 10 years.  Both groups of men were identical with respect to their risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Physicians reviewed medical records and confirmed episodes of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths due to cardiovascular disease.  Researchers found that the risk of heart attack, stroke, or deaths due to cardiovascular disease was the same for men in both groups.

“Since so many Americans take daily multivitamins, studies like this are key to providing us with valuable information about what specific benefits multivitamins may or may not provide in terms of their long-term impact on chronic diseases. For cardiovascular disease, we must continue to emphasize a heart-healthy diet, physical activity, smoking cessation, and regular screening for cardiovascular risk factors,” noted Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, Chief of the Division of Aging at BWH and senior study author.

You can read more about the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  For more information about heart disease, visit the BWH Cardiovascular Wellness Service.

– Jamie R

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