By Dr. Mercola
Dietary supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry that is growing at a phenomenal rate. In 2012, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimated Americans spend $30.2 billion each year on complementary health approaches.1
These numbers continue to rise as more become aware of the impact nutrition and micronutrients have on overall health and wellness. According to a survey by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, nearly 68 percent take dietary supplements regularly. They list their reasons as overall health benefits, filling in nutritional gaps, increased energy, better heart health and improved bone health.2
While "vitamins and minerals" was the category that had the highest usage (97 percent), specialty supplements such as omega-3 and probiotics remained stable, and herbal supplements such as green tea, garlic and cranberry rose by 5 percent in the past year. Despite their popularity, there has been some debate about whether or not these supplements are truly useful.
It is possible to overdose or cause harm using vitamins and minerals indiscriminately. However, recent research has also discovered daily high-dose oral multivitamins and multimineral supplements decreased cardiac events in study participants when they were not concurrently taking statin drugs.3
High-Dose Multivitamins May Lower Your Risk of a Cardiac Event
Patients were enrolled at 134 sites in the U.S. and Canada in an effort to evaluate the safety and efficacy of EDTA chelation in patients with coronary artery disease or a history of heart attack.4 Cosponsors of the study were the National Institute of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). This was the first multi-center study to evaluate the use of chelation in this population. Dr. Stephen Kopecky, cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, commented:5
"Chelation is a process in which a substance is used to bind molecules, such as minerals, and remove them from the body. Its use grew by nearly 68 percent between 2002 and 2007 in the United States, to 111,000 people, despite there being no evidence of its safety, efficacy or mechanism of action."
At the start of the study the investigators found EDTA chelation used by alternative practitioners was regularly accompanied by high doses of multivitamins and multiminerals. As this was a compelling factor that may confound the data, participants were split into four groups:
- Chelation plus multivitamins and multiminerals
- Chelation plus placebo supplements
- Placebo chelation plus active multivitamins and multiminerals
- Placebo chelation plus placebo supplements
The primary endpoint of the study, an objective event that indicates whether the intervention is beneficial or not, was the first time any of the following occurred:
- All-cause mortality
- Hospitalization for angina
- Coronary revascularization (such as angioplasty)
- Heart attack
At the start of the study, researchers noted those taking statins as a prescribed subgroup for further analysis. Of the participants enrolled, 73 percent were taking statins at the start of the study and 27 percent were not. At the conclusion, researchers found those taking statin drugs enjoyed no additional benefit from the vitamins, while those who didn't take the drug experienced a significant benefit from taking vitamins, whether or not they also received the chelation therapy. The researchers concluded:6
"High-dose oral multivitamin and multimineral supplementation seem to decrease combined cardiac events in a stable, post-MI population not taking statin therapy at baseline. These unexpected findings are being retested in the ongoing TACT2."
The Importance of Using High-Quality Supplements
Researchers used a unique formulation designed for the study, based on commonly used vitamin supplements prescribed by alternative medicine practitioners. In other words, the vitamins used by the participants were not over-the-counter, grocery store brand multivitamin supplements. Choosing a quality multivitamin and multimineral to use at home may not be straightforward.
It is important that manufacturers have checks and balances in place during production to ensure the quality of their final product. Manufacturers may agree to a voluntary certification and testing by the ConsumerLab.com, NSF International or U.S. Pharmacopeia. These testing organizations help ensure manufacturers meet strict standards of quality through examination and testing of the product throughout the production process.7
Once tested, the manufacturer may place the seal of the organization on the product label indicating a reliable source has tested the product for safety, effectiveness, risk and quality. As with any product, vitamins have a shelf life that conforms to the vitamin stability profile in the final product. Products react differently to light, humidity and heat as well. If you choose to use a supplement, choose a well-respected company whose product is consistently evaluated and tested to ensure you are receiving exactly what is on the label.
Cardiovascular Health Is Driven by Mitochondrial Function
Mitochondria are tiny specialized structures within cells that generate energy. They have their own genetic code and divide and replicate on their own timetable. They produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the type of energy your cells use.8 In a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers discovered mitochondria and the ATP they produce, may be the "dominant pathway for skeletal muscle energy distribution."9
This information led others to suspect that your mitochondria form a veritable power grid within your body, vital to your health and life. They confirmed this theory in a study published in the journal Cell Reports.10 This interconnected network allows for rapid communication and distribution of energy, but the network may also be jeopardized when elements are damaged.
One of the primary factors that impact mitochondrial health is your nutrition. When carbohydrates are used as the primary fuel, as the majority eating a Western diet are doing, it generates a great amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals. Over time, this causes mitochondrial impairment and dysfunction, resulting in the development of chronic illness and disease.
Your mitochondria are supported by several nutrients in your diet, including CoQ10, B vitamins, vitamin K2, magnesium and animal-based omega-3 fats. The combination of CoQ10 and selenium has demonstrated improved heart function and reduced mortality.11 There is a significant link between the health of your mitochondria and your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Mitochondrial Impairment May Have Strongly Influenced Study Results
In 2015, the CDC shared that 36.7 percent of Americans either took statin medications or should take them to reduce their cholesterol levels.12 Recommendations released in 2017 edge that number even higher.13 These rising numbers may play a role in the increasing rate of people who suffer chronic problems, such as chronic urinary tract infections, amnesia and headaches, abdominal pain, abnormal liver function and muscle pain and spasms.14
Researchers have found statins have a negative effect on mitochondrial function, some of which is dose dependent.15 Statin medications predispose the individual to mitochondrial defects that may respond to the administration of CoQ10. Statin-induced muscle disease is the most common reason why people discontinue the drug.16 The incidence varies from 5 percent to 29 percent of patients who use these drugs. The milder form is more common and also likely affects heart function.
Statins also inhibit vitamin K2 dependent processes in the body,17 one of which is to prevent arterial stiffening, known as arteriosclerosis.18 One of the functions of K2 is to move calcium into the proper areas of your body, such as bones and teeth, and remove it from your arteries. As your arteries become less pliable, your blood pressure rises, increasing the work of your heart and your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Published data shows individuals with a high intake of vitamin K2 may have up to a 57 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease than those whose vitamin K2 intake is lower or usage is impaired, such as in the consumption of statin drugs.19
Statins also block your body's ability to manufacture ketones, a cleaner burning fuel that produces far fewer ROS and free radical damage. The enzyme that produces ketones in your liver is the same enzyme blocked by statin medications, as it also produces cholesterol.
Statin Medication Trend Puts Lives at Risk
If the risk of a medication includes a "common" side effect of cardiovascular death, you would hope the effectiveness outweighs the risks. In this case, the risk of taking a statin medication far outweighs any benefit. In fact, according to the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force,20 250 people have to take statins for up to six years to prevent a single death.21
Within those six years, many more will have suffered the side effects and mitochondrial damage from the statin medications that natural means of balancing nutrients to protect heart health does not trigger. Statin advocates developed a statistical tool that has drastically increased the number of people who would "benefit" from statin medications. However, a report in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology concludes this tool used relative risk reduction to amplify what amounts to trivial benefits.22
This same report found clinical trials succeeded in minimizing the significance of a large number of adverse effects. In a second study in the same publication, study authors found that statins were not only less effective as commonly communicated, but they may also contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.23
Benefits of Balanced Micronutrients
Ensuring a balance of essential micronutrients may benefit your heart health and your overall health in ways science is only beginning to understand. Biochemist Bruce Ames has dedicated much of his professional life to studying the effect that micronutrient insufficiency may have on the aging processes. Through his work he developed the Triage Theory of Aging, published in 2006.24
He found micronutrient deficiencies were associated with DNA damage and early aging. As a result, he proposed the body shunts micronutrients where they are immediately needed for short-term survival at the expense of long-term health.
For example, a short-term, emergency release of calcium from bone to the blood stream to reduce metabolic acidosis caused by several factors, including low potassium or magnesium levels, exercise or high protein intake, is necessary for immediate survival, but when repeated often results in osteoporosis.
His research included mitochondrial function, showing that optimizing micronutrient intake could optimize metabolism and reduce mitochondrial impairment and decay.25 During an interview with Life Extension, he pointed to several recent studies that have demonstrated a link between vitamin K deficiency and coronary heart disease.26
Scientists are still discovering how complex the human body is and how interconnected each organ system is to another. An insufficiency in one micronutrient may not produce overt symptoms of deficiency, but over time will likely produce symptoms of chronic illness and disease as your body struggles to survive on less than what is necessary for optimal health.
My food pyramid is nearly the inverse of the original USDA food pyramid, featuring healthy fats and vegetables on the bottom, followed by high quality proteins and fruit and lastly grains. The plan is designed to help you eat your way to better health, incorporating foods that are high in nutrient value. You can read more about how to balance your nutritional intake in my previous article, "My Updated Nutritional Plan — Your Guide to Optimal Health."