Vitamin Pills: Useless for Stroke and Heart Attack

Dietary supplements such as vitamins and minerals do not lower the risk of dying of a brain infarct or heart disease. This resulted in an overview study with more than two million participants.

With food supplements and vitamin supplements in 2015, the trade in about 1.1 billion euros. That this money is badly invested, now confirms a meta-analysis of the use of the preparations for stroke and heart attack.
A total of 3249 studies from the years 1970 to 2016 have US physicians around the cardiologist Dr. med. Joonseok Kim from the University of Alabama in Birmingham considered for the meta-analysis. To clarify how taking supplements affects the risk of stroke and heart disease, researchers analyzed 18 particularly high-quality studies in which more than two million people had participated.

“The result is sobering and says that there is no benefit of such a measure for the whole population,” says Professor Dr. med. Peter Berlit of the German Society of Neurology (DGN). If one summarizes the mortality for all cardiovascular diseases, the relative risk (RR) when taking supplements is exactly 1.00. According to the meta-analysis, it made no difference whether the participants took an extra dose of vitamins, minerals or trace elements or not. The researchers came to the same conclusion – as part of the statistical fluctuations – in the separate consideration of cardiac mortality (RR 1.02), death from stroke (RR 0.95) and the frequency of strokes (RR 0.98).


Only the risk for heart disease seemed to be speaking with a RR of 0.88 for dietary supplements. But there is also no connection here: If one uses only the higher-value, so-called randomized and controlled studies for the calculation, the relative risk is 0.97. “Adding to this unsatisfactory result is the alarming outcome of a systematic meta-analysis of 78 randomized trials in 2012 by the Cochrane Collaboration, according to which dietary supplementation with antioxidants not only does not help but even increases mortality!” Says Berlit.


In the current study, researchers had gone to great lengths to identify subgroups that might benefit from supplements. However, the result was always negative, no matter how long the preparations were taken, how old the study participants were, whether male or female, smoker or non-smoker, athletic or not.


“Multi-vitamin tablets are used to make billions in sales every year, but the meta-analysis shows clearly that these pills neither prevent strokes nor reduce the mortality from cardiovascular disease,” says Professor. Armin Grau from the German Stroke Society (DSG) summarized the results: “Only manufacturers and sellers benefit from these pills. However, it is clearly proven that lettuce, fruits and vegetables counteract vascular disease. In lettuce, fruit and vegetables, vitamins are found in their natural environment. “Other effective measures, which even saved the wallet, are the abstinence from smoking and to larger amounts of alcohol as well as regular physical activity.