The best heart health supplements (and what to skip)

These days there seems to be a supplement for everything, and your heart is no different. But which ones are actually beneficial, and which ones can you pass on? A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has some answers.

Researchers analyzed 884 known studies on micronutrients taken as dietary supplements and found strong evidence that three were especially beneficial for cardiovascular health, including: 

  • omega-3 fatty acid, which decreased mortality from cardiovascular disease; 
  • folic acid, which lowered stroke risk; 
  • coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant sometimes marketed as CoQ10, which decreased all-cause mortality.

Other antioxidant supplements that demonstrated evidence of reducing cardiovascular risk include:

  • omega-6 fatty acid 
  • L-arginine 
  • L-citrulline 
  • vitamin D 
  • magnesium
  • zinc 
  • alpha-lipoic acid, 
  • melatonin 
  • catechin 
  • curcumin 
  • flavonol 
  • genistein 
  • quercetin

But not all supplements are created equal. Researchers also found that the following supplements had no impact on heart disease outcomes or Type 2 diabetes risk:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E 
  • selenium 

While vitamin D helped with some heart disease risk factors, like lowering blood sugar, the evidence suggests “that long-term vitamin D supplementation cannot prevent cardiovascular diseases,” says Dr. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Brown University and a principal investigator for the study, which involved more than 883,000 patients.

Meanwhile, beta carotene supplements actually increased all-cause mortality. Antioxidant supplements help reduce oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) and the antioxidants in your body. Oxidative stress also contributes to many cardiovascular diseases. 

“Research on micronutrient supplementation has mainly focused on the health effects of a single or a few vitamins and minerals,” says Liu. “We decided to take a comprehensive and systematic approach to evaluate all the publicly available and accessible studies reporting all micronutrients, including phytochemicals and antioxidant supplements and their effects on cardiovascular risk factors as well as multiple cardiovascular diseases.”

However, researchers believe further study is needed to better understand the long-term effects of certain micronutrients on health. It’s also advised to talk to your doctor beforehand to determine how supplements can interact with other medication, as well as which supplements are best for you and the proper dosage.

“Identifying the optimal mixture of micronutrients is important, as not all are beneficial, and some may even have harmful effects,” says Liu.

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