Lancet study finds no health benefit from antioxidants supplements
in high-risk individuals
by Wyn Snow, Managing Editor
published a recent issue of Lancet, a highly respected British
medical journal, finds that supplementation with antioxidant vitamins
(E, C, and beta-carotene) does not show an impact on important measures
of health and disease among individuals who are already ill.
randomized, double-blind study followed 20,536 patients over a 5-year
period. One group took daily supplements of 600 mg vitamin E, 250
mg vitamin C, and 20 mg beta-carotene; the other received an equivalent
placebo. Compliance with taking the supplement or placebo averaged
83% over the course of the trial.
study participants ranged from 40 to 80 years of age, and all were
ill: 41% had previous experienced a heart attack and 24% had other
coronary disease. Only 7150 participants (35%) did not have coronary
disease, but instead suffered from cerebrovascular disease (25%),
peripheral arterial disease (38%), and/or diabetes mellitus (56%).
Some participants, both those suffering from coronary disease and
those who did not, had more than one of these conditions. 75% of
the participants were male, 25% female. Although 41% of the study
population had treated hypertension, only 1% were included in the
study on the basis of this finding alone. Randomization of these
and other factors between the two groups was good.
found no significant differences between the two groups in mortality
(deaths) -- or in incidence of any kind of vascular disease (heart
attacks or strokes), cancer, or other major outcomes. The vitamin
regimen did result in increased blood plasma concentrations of the
corresponding vitamins: twice the level of -tocopherol, one-third
higher level of vitamin C, and quadruple that of beta-carotene.
The study also found small but highly significant increases total
cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in the vitamin group's
Protection Study Collaborative Group. MRC/BHF Heart Protection Study
of antioxidant vitamin supplementation in 20 536 high-risk individuals:
a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet, 2002; 360: