"Antioxidants are clearly not the magic bullet for heart disease prevention," said Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, the study's principal investigator and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston. "We didn't see an overall benefit or risk for these vitamins and cardiovascular disease."
The study shows that vitamins C, E and beta-carotene supplements are no substitute for conventional cardiovascular medications with proven results, added Dr. Nanette K. Wenger, an associate professor in the division of cardiology at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Women patients, in particular, seem to "love their antioxidants, and sometimes, for some reason, stop life-saving medications and start taking them," added Wenger, chairwoman of the data safety and monitoring board for the study.
The findings also mean "we have to redouble the efforts on conventional prevention" such as healthy diet, exercise, weight control and avoiding tobacco, Manson said. "One problem is that occasionally, if there is an expectation of benefit from popping a pill, people are less vigilant about controlling established risk factors and much more difficult lifestyle modifications," she added.
The results are published in the Aug. 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.