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Some benefit from antioxidant vitamins on the risk of cardiovascular disease

About 23% or 62 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD; eg, heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, angina, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or heart failure).

The Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study concluded, “There were no overall effects of ascorbic acid [vitamin C], vitamin E, or beta carotene on cardiovascular events among women at high risk for CVD.”

But read on to see those who did benefit.

First, the details.

  • 8171 female health professionals at increased risk for CVD were studied.
  • They were at least 40 years old with a history of CVD or 3 or more CVD risk factors.
  • They were monitored for 9.4 years.

And, the results.

  • Ascorbic acid 500 mg/day, vitamin E (600 mg every other day), or beta-carotene (50 mg every other day) had no effect on CVD or on the individual outcomes of heart attack, stroke, coronary revascularization (the process of restoring the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart), or death due to CVD.
  • There was a significant reduction CVD in the women with a prior diagnosis of CVD who took vitamin E.
  • Those randomly assigned to both ascorbic acid and vitamin E experienced significantly fewer strokes.

The bottom line?
There’s 2 ways you can go in reporting the results: positive or negative.

The researchers opted for a negative spin. “While additional research into combinations of agents, particularly for stroke, may be of interest, widespread use of these individual agents for cardiovascular protection does not appear warranted.”

They could have concluded that there were benefits in certain women (ie, vitamin E in the women who had a prior diagnosis of CVD, and women taking both active ascorbic acid and vitamin E). And this deserves to be evaluated in a more targeted study.

Why do researchers who spent more than a decade on a research project go negative when there is an option to be positive?

8/13/07 18:28 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.