There’s always a swirl of information on the internet about the need for vitamin supplements for heart health.
The question in most people’s minds, however, after reading article after article contradicting themselves is, “Do they really make you healthier?” Do we really need vitamin supplements for heart health?
Well, it depends…Some vitamin supplements for heart health can be beneficial.
However, the key to their success in your body is eating a balanced diet.
There are tons of options that sound great, but the volume of supplements available today bring with them a lot of questions.
- Which ones really work? Just how effective are they? Are they worth the money?
There’s nothing wrong with those questions if you want to be healthier and avoid heart disease and strokes. However, before you go and clean out the store shelves of everything from Vitamin A to Zinc, keep this in mind:
There’s only ONE way to make sure you’re getting everything your body needs. Eat Healthy Foods.
Supplements can be beneficial, but the key to vitamin and mineral success, regardless of your medical diagnosis, is eating a balanced diet. So, before you start taking them, talk to your physician about your current dietary choices and the best plan to follow for your personal health needs.
Memorize this: Food First.
Nutritionists recommend food first because it provides a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as other dietary components not found in supplements.
➡ For example, foods provide many compounds which have a biological effect on your body as well as dietary fiber, typically not found in supplements. In addition, some supplements actually interfere with the full absorption of vitamins.
- For instance, some of the fat-soluble supplements, If taken on an empty stomach without any food, won’t be absorbed as well as if the supplement was consumed with a food that provides fat.
But some supplements may help…
If you’re doing your best to eat healthy foods but are still deficient in some areas, supplements can help.
- The key is to make sure you’re taking them in addition to healthy diet choices and nutrient-dense foods.
They’re supplements, not replacements. Only use supplements if your physician has recommended them.
Here are the current “do’s and don’ts” from the American Heart Association.
Do What’s Best for You
- Eat a healthy diet.
There’s no substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and dietary cholesterol.
This approach has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease for both healthy people and those already diagnosed with heart disease.
- Patients with diagnosed heart disease should consume about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids called EPA + DHA.
- If you have elevated triglycerides, try to get 2 to 4 grams per day of EPA+DHA.
Don’t do this:
- Do not take antioxidant vitamin supplements such as A, C, and E.
Scientific evidence has not shown that these can eliminate the need to lower your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol or to stop smoking.
- Do not rely only on supplements. There isn’t sufficient data to suggest that healthy people benefit by taking certain vitamin or mineral supplements in excess of the daily recommended allowance.
Some “observational studies” have suggested that using these can lower rates of cardiovascular disease and/or lower risk factor levels, however, it’s not at all clear from these studies whether the supplements caused these improvements.
- For example, supplement users may be less overweight and more physically active.
“We recommend that healthy people get adequate nutrients by eating a variety of foods in moderation, rather than by taking supplements. An exception for omega-3 fatty acid supplements is explained below.”
The best available estimates of safe and adequate dietary intakes are published by the Institute Of Medicine.
➡ Almost any nutrient can be potentially toxic if consumed in large quantities over a long time.
➡ Interactions between dietary supplements and prescription drugs and among several dietary supplements taken at the same time may occur.
➡ Too much iron can increase the risk of chronic disease, and too much vitamin A can cause birth defects.
➡ Vitamin or mineral supplements are not a substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans-fat, sodium and dietary cholesterol.
This specific dietary approach has been shown to reduce coronary heart disease risk in both healthy people and those with coronary heart disease.
What about antioxidant vitamins?
Many people are interested in antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E). This is due to suggestions from large observational studies comparing healthy adults consuming large amounts of these vitamins with those who didn’t.
However, these observations are subject to bias and don’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Again, scientific evidence does not suggest that consuming antioxidant vitamins can eliminate the need to reduce blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol or stop smoking cigarettes.
Clinical trials are underway to find out if increased vitamin antioxidant intake may have an overall benefit. However, a recent large, placebo-controlled, randomized study failed to show any benefit from vitamin E on heart disease.
Although antioxidant supplements are not recommended, antioxidant food sources –especially plant-derived foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods and vegetable oils –are recommended.
Fish intake has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease. On the basis of available data, the American Heart Association recommends that patients without documented heart disease eat a variety of fish – preferably omega-3-containing fish – at least twice a week. Examples of these types of fish include salmon, herring, and trout.
Patients with documented heart disease are advised to consume about 1 gram of EPA + DHA (types of omega-3 fatty acids), preferably from fish, although EPA+DHA supplements could be considered, however, consult with a physician first.
For people with high triglycerides (blood fats), 2 to 4 grams of EPA + DHA per day, in the form of capsules and under a physician’s care, are recommended.
In the end, there’s no substitute for common sense and trusted medical advice.
Healthy eating, that dreaded “diet” word, and keeping your body in motion, are the keys to a healthy heart and a disease-free life.
References: American Heart Association. May 2017.
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