Health risk: combination of dietary supplements can increase risk of stroke

Health risk: combination of dietary supplements can increase risk of stroke

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Health risk from dietary supplements?

Many people take so-called nutritional supplements to protect themselves from diseases. Is such an intake really sensible or are there even cases in which food supplements promote the development of diseases?

West Virginia University's latest study found that certain combinations of supplements could increase the risk of stroke. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Annals of Internal Medicine".

Results from 277 studies were analyzed

A new meta-analysis of 277 randomized controlled trials involving nearly 1 million adults now looked at how different supplements and diets affect mortality rates and cardiovascular outcomes.

Folic acid and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial effects

Of the 16 dietary supplements examined, only two appeared to be clearly beneficial: folic acid and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The results suggest that taking folic acid protects against strokes and taking omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart attacks and coronary artery disease.

Many of the studies examined did not provide sufficient evidence

"The reason we conducted this study was because millions of people in the US and around the world were consuming supplements or following certain dietary habits, but there was no high-quality evidence that these interventions impacted cardiac protection and circulation, ”study author Professor Safi Khan of the West Virginia University School of Medicine reports in a press release. The researchers investigated whether the dietary supplements and forms of nutrition influence the rate of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease. They also assessed the quality of the evidence supporting the results of the studies examined.

Danger from the combined intake of calcium and vitamin D

The analysis found that the combined intake of calcium and certain vitamins can even be harmful. The meta-analysis showed with moderate certainty that taking a combination of calcium and vitamin D can increase the risk of stroke, the authors write. However, calcium or vitamin D alone did not appear to have any effect on mortality or cardiovascular outcomes. None of the other dietary supplements examined to which the meta-analysis referred, such as multivitamin, iron, folic acid, beta-carotene and antioxidants, had any negative effects.

Pay attention to a reduced salt intake

When the researchers turned their attention to the diet, they found that less salt improves the overall mortality rate in people with normal blood pressure. Less salt also made cardiovascular deaths less common in hypertensives. However, reduced sodium intake was the only form of nutrition that showed any benefit. The other seven forms of diet, such as eating less or different types of fat, choosing a Mediterranean diet, and increasing fish oil intake had no effect, the authors report. “Reduced salt intake was associated with an improvement in overall survival and a reduction in cardiovascular mortality. This can be underpinned by logic, as there are enough data in various studies to prove that low salt intake fundamentally improves high blood pressure, which has a direct effect on the cardiovascular result, ”says Professor Khan.

Study Limitations

The evidence for the benefits of folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids and the disadvantage of the combination of calcium and vitamin D supplements was less reliable. For example, the inclusion of a study from China, where the diet is usually not rich in naturally occurring folic acid, may have had a disproportionate effect on the results of the folic acid test, the researchers suspect. Most studies also rely on food diaries, which are not always reliable. The randomized controlled trials were not precise enough, the authors report. There were problems with the methodology, target audience, and when and where these studies were conducted, says Professor Khan. (as)

More interesting articles on this topic can be found here:

  • Dietary supplements with fish oil and vitamin D do not protect against heart diseases
  • Dietary supplements unsuitable for losing weight and more of a risk
  • Study showed: No benefit from dietary supplements in preventing depression

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Safi U. Khan, Muhammad U. Khan, Haris Riaz, Shahul Valavoor, Di Zhao: Effects of Nutritional Supplements and Dietary Interventions on Cardiovascular Outcomes: An Umbrella Review and Evidence Map, in Annals of Internal Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine
  • Nutritional supplements and diets not always protective, WVU research suggests, West Virginia University, West Virginia University

Video: Cholesterol and Risk Factor Primer: How to Avoid Heart Disease and Stroke (September 2022).


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