Several dietary supplements can give the heart a boost

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December 8, 2022 — Certain antioxidant supplements — like omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and coenzyme Q10 — may benefit your heart’s health, according to a new study published in Journal of the American College of Cardiologj.

Researchers looked at the results of nearly 900 studies involving nearly 900,000 patients and found that some of these micronutrients reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke or death, while others appeared to have no effect and still others appeared to be potentially harmful.

“Our study underscores the importance of micronutrient diversity and the balance between health benefits and risks,” says Simin Liu, MD, senior study author and professor of epidemiology and medicine at Brown University in Providence, RI.

“Determining the optimal mix of micronutrients is important because not all are beneficial and some can even have harmful effects,” he says.

The research team focused on risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, and things like heart attack or stroke.

Overall, the researchers found evidence that many micronutrients give the heart a potential boost, including:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and leafy greens
  • Omega-6 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds
  • L-arginine, an amino acid that helps the body build protein. It’s found in high-protein foods like fish, red meat, poultry, soy, whole grains, beans, and dairy products.
  • L-citrulline, a non-essential amino acid found in watermelon
  • folic acid, a form of vitamin B9 used in case of deficiency and to prevent pregnancy complications. It is added to cold cereals, flour, bread, pasta, baked goods, cookies and crackers as required by federal law. Foods that are naturally high in folic acid include leafy greens, okra, asparagus, certain fruits, beans, yeast, mushrooms, animal liver and kidney, orange juice, and tomato juice.
  • Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that occurs naturally in some foods, is added to others, and is available as a dietary supplement. Oily fish (such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and cod liver oil are among the best sources.
  • Magnesium, which keeps blood pressure normal, strong bones and a stable heart rhythm. In addition to supplements, magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, nuts, beans, peas, and soybeans, as well as whole grains.
  • Zinc found in chicken, red meat and fortified breakfast cereals
  • Alpha lipoic acid, an antioxidant found naturally in the body and also contained in food. It is found in red meat, carrots, beets, spinach, broccoli and potatoes.
  • Coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant found in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines; vegetable oils; and meat
  • melatonin
  • Vegetable polyphenols such as catechin, curcumin, flavanol, genistein and quercetin

Many of these micronutrients lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels.

Specifically, omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been shown to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease by 7%, coronary artery disease by 14%, and heart attacks by 15%. Folic acid supplements also reduced the risk of stroke by 16%, and coenzyme Q10 reduced all-cause deaths in heart failure patients by 32%.

In contrast, beta-carotene supplements (found naturally in plants like carrots and fruits) increased the risk of stroke by 9%, all-cause deaths by 10%, and deaths from cardiovascular disease by 12%. Finally, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and selenium showed no long-term effect on cardiovascular disease outcomes or type 2 diabetes risk.

Previous studies have shown that antioxidants benefit the heart, likely because they reduce stress, which contributes to heart disease. Heart-healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) include foods rich in antioxidants. However, studies of specific antioxidant supplements have been mixed or conflicting.

“Research on micronutrient supplementation has mostly focused on the health effects of a single vitamin or a few vitamins and minerals,” says Liu. “We have chosen a comprehensive and systematic approach to assess all publicly available and accessible studies reporting all micronutrients.”

More studies are needed to find combinations that improve an individual’s diet and heart health, the study authors wrote.


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Several dietary supplements can give the heart a boost
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