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Beta carotene may raise risk of heart disease slightly, study says

The disease-fighting ability of vitamin E and beta carotene has taken another hit.

An analysis of 15 clinical trials found that not only do the two supplements fail to prevent heart disease, but there’s also a slight chance that beta carotene can increase the risk.

The analysis follows a large Finnish study, reported several years ago, that found that beta carotene supplements actually increased the risk of lung cancer in heavy smokers. Other trials have failed to show a reduction in heart attack deaths among people taking vitamin E or beta carotene. Because use of the supplements continues to grow, researchers decided to take another look at the research data.

They evaluated seven randomized trials of vitamin E and eight of beta carotene, involving more than 200,000 people, to see if the supplements made any difference in the incidence of heart attack, stroke, or death from heart disease or other causes.

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Vitamin E proved to have no preventive benefits, and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 0.4% higher in those taking beta carotene, compared with those taking a placebo.

“If you’re taking these vitamins because of heart disease, you shouldn’t.... Supplements are not a substitute for a good diet, weight loss and exercise,” says the lead author, Dr. Marc S. Penn, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

This study was published in the June 14 issue of the Lancet.

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