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The latest results to be released from the long-term Physicians Health Study II have shown that a daily multivitamin may help to protect men from cardiovascular health problems.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston), Karolinska Instituet (Stockholm), and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have now analysed data from 18,530 male physicians over the course of 20 years. Back in 2012, analysis of the data at that point found that daily multivitamin use may reduce the risk of cancer by 8%. Latest findings from the study were published recently in The Journal of Nutrition and showed long-term multivitamin use (over a 20 year time period) to be significantly associated with a lower risk of major cardiovascular disease (CVD). The researchers also found no evidence of any safety concerns from long-term multivitamin use.

The men were randomly assigned to receive a daily multivitamin or placebo.  Results showed that there were no significant reductions in major cardiovascular events, heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease. However they did find that multivitamin users, who had cardiovascular disease at the start of the study were significantly less likely (44% risk reduction) to die of a heart attack.

“The precise mechanisms through which long-term multivitamin use may be more strongly associated with CVD are unclear from observational studies and may reflect residual confounding by healthy behaviours. Alternatively, a longer period of time may be necessary for multivitamins to affect the long-term development of CVD.”

In terms of possible mechanisms of action, there are a number of reasons why daily vitamin and mineral supplementation may protect long term heart health including supporting healthy homocysteine metabolism (B vitamins and folic acid), protecting LDL (low density lipoproteins) from oxidative damage and reducing endothelial dysfunction.

Rautiainen S, et al. Multivitamin use and the risk of cardiovascular disease in men.  The Journal of Nutrition. Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/jn.115.227884

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