Antioxidants, Vitamins, Wine … What Helps Prevent Heart Disease?

Millions of people around the world meet a strict ritual every day: eat your doses of vitamins E, A (beta carotene) and D, and other antioxidants that supposedly will protect them from a heart attack or stroke (CVA – accident stroke). They are right to worry.Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death – in Brazil, as well as the average of countries in the world, they account for about one third of all deaths. On the other hand, those people are wrong to think that the supplements might protect them from these evils. The vast majority of these vitamins simply does not work in preventing heart disease. 

It is true that these and many other products are antioxidants. It is also true that the process of oxidation in the body (caused by excess consumption of calorie-rich foods, beverages and tobacco, among others) modifies the LDL (low density lipoprotein, known as “bad cholesterol”), attacking the blood vessels and triggering atherosclerosis, which is the formation of plaque, calcium and other elements in the walls of arteries. Over the years, this leads to clogging of these arteries and consequently to heart attacks, strokes and other vascular problems. It would be logical to assume these problems could be prevented with supplements of antioxidants. It is this belief that leads individuals to the shelves of vitamins and supplements and some doctors to recommend them. 

Wine and supplementation of vitamins and antioxidants are not part of the recommendations of medical associations to prevent heart disease

It would be great if the formula worked. But the fact is that it does not, as shown in numerous studies around the world. In a paper published in the prestigious British journal The Lancet, a group of doctors from the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine Cleveland Clinic Foundation, USA, analyzed the results of more than a dozen studies of various countries concerning the use of vitamin E supplements (involving a total of more than 80 000 patients) and beta carotene / vitamin A (involving fewer than 140 000). In neither case was no benefit. Mortality from heart disease was very similar in both groups of patients who had vitamin A or E and those who had not. Plus, although the risk is small, vitamin E may decrease HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and beta-carotene may be associated with tumors, such as the pleura, especially in smokers. 

The antioxidant arsenal includes several other fashionable items, some less studied. For the omega 3, for example, there are strong suggestions that there may be benefits to patients, but there are still more comprehensive searches. In the case of vitamin D, studies from Framingham, that have been done in this city ofMassachusetts, the United States since 1948, found higher incidence of cardiovascular problems among individuals with low levels of this vitamin. But studies are still underway on a possible positive effect of supplementation. 

And the famous benefits of wine, especially red wine? Here, the evidence that polyphenols – substances present in grapes – to help raise HDL, we have are studies showing that the incidence of heart disease decreases in populations from countries where wine consumption is higher. They are mainly the countries of southern Europe, where, besides the wine, consume more fish, less red meat, more olive oil and vegetables – the healthy Mediterranean diet. So is there a set of favorable factors. You can not raise the wine to the status of agent alone in preventing heart problems. So do not expect your doctor will prescribe it. The most he will do is recommend moderation (no more than 2 drinks / day for men and one for women) if the patient has the habit of taking wine with this, one can reap the benefits of this drink and stay away from the harmful effects of excess alcohol. 

However, neither wine nor supplementation of vitamins and antioxidants are part of the recommendations of medical associations for the prevention of heart disease. What they suggest is having a healthy diet, do regular exercise (walking 30 minutes five times a week is enough) and visit the doctor periodically to control risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, adhering to treatments available when needed. Recommendations are far more mundane and less glamorous than the snake oil supplements. But proven effective.

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