Daily dietary supplements of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (also found in fish) or lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients found in green leafy vegetables) were not associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in elderly patients with the eye disease age-related macular degeneration.
Diet studies have suggested that increased intake of fish, a source of omega (ω)-3 fatty acids, can reduce rates of cardiac death, death from all other causes and heart attack. However, the evidence that taking dietary supplements containing those fatty acids has been inconsistent and has suggested no reduction in CVD events. Data on the impact of lutein and zeaxanthin (two dietary xanthophylls found in the macula of the human eye) on CVD are not as substantial.
Cardiovascular outcomes were studied as part of AREDS2, a clinical trial of supplements and their impact on age-related macular degeneration. As part of the cardiovascular outcomes ancillary study, 4,203 individuals were randomized to take: supplements containing the ω-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] (n=1,068); the macular xanthophylls lutein and zeaxanthin (n=1,044); a combination of the two (n=1,079); or placebo (1,012). The supplements were added to vitamins and minerals recommended for macular degeneration and given to the participants, who were primarily white, married and highly educated with a median age of 74 years at baseline.
There was no reduction in CVD (heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death) or secondary CVD outcomes (hospitalized heart failure, revascularization or unstable angina) among patients taking the supplements.
"We found no significant benefit among older individuals treated with either ω-3 supplements or with a combination of lutein plus zeaxanthin. Our results are consistent with a growing body of evidence from clinical trials that have found little CVD benefit from moderate levels of dietary supplementation," the authors concluded.
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