Studies show disheartening news for heart supplements

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There are three things you could be doing to avoid heart disease that could be a waste of your time and money.

The disheartening news concerns protection against heart disease from over-the-counter supplements.

Dr. Steve Samuels of Franciscan Health Internal Medicine says what happens is the result of observational studies are released, we hear of a benefit and start buying, but don't pay attention when larger, scientific, randomized control trials don't duplicate the benefit.

Perhaps the biggest myth, Samuels says, is about fish oil.

"Unfortunately, this was one of our big hopes that it was a benefit and I still do think a heart-healthy diet with some fish involved in it may be a benefit over the long term, but unfortunately, taking fish oil supplements now has been shown in numerous studies, not only did not have a protective effect before you have heart disease, but it also doesn't lower your rate of heart attacks after you have heart disease," Samuels said. "So, unfortunately, it is just not going to be a benefit unless you have very, very high triglycerides - a storage form of sugar and fat in the body - there, they have been shown to be of some benefit. You need to get a lipid panel with your doctor."

And for those select patients with high triglycerides says a prescription fish oil is what he recommends because of its purity.

So what about Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)?

"Coenzyme Q10 is another factor that is involved in the metabolism of lipids in your body and may be a benefit if you have good high levels that protect you from heart disease," Samuels said. "But there are not studies showing that if you have CoQ10 by replacing it with supplements that there is any benefit. To the contrary, numerous studies show taking the pill simply doesn't alter your risk for heart disease."

The other surprise is vitamin E.

"Unfortunately, vitamin E has no effect on heart disease and there are large scale studies now done. The early studies in the 1970s and '80s pointed that there might be some benefit, but the large scale studies done since show there is no benefit in women and in men it actually may increase the risk for stroke very slightly," Samuels said.

Also, if you are a heart patient and are taking medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, keep in mind the supplements can interact with the medicines and change the metabolism of the drugs, changing their effectiveness.

The most positive thing you can do to reduce your heart disease risk is not in an over-the-counter pill, but in a systematic lifestyle change to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and stop smoking.