Most nutritional supplements do not improve heart health or help you live longer because their quality is not good enough
The majority of supplements with vitamins and minerals fails to extend life or protect against cardiovascular disease, although fish oil does seem to have a good effect, according to a large review from John Hopkins University. On the other hand, a Danish study shows that blood levels of vitamin D are crucial for a person’s expected lifespan, and a groundbreaking Swedish study shows that patented supplements with Q10 and selenium benefit older people by improving their cardiac health and reducing cardiovascular mortality by 50%. What matters is to use supplements that contain nutrients in the right quantity, which have a proper quality and can be absorbed by the body. In the following, you can read more about the different studies and learn how you can improve your heart health and increase your chances of a longer life.
A lot of supplements containing vitamins, minerals, and Q10 have such poor quality that the active ingredients are not absorbed properly, which means that you risk wasting your money. The human ageing process in itself can reduce the uptake of various vitamins and minerals, and even if we eat a healthy diet and stick to the dietary guidelines, it can be a problem to get enough vitamin D (because of the lack of sunlight) and selenium (because of our nutrient-depleted soil). There may be individual needs that need to be taken into account if we want to obtain a certain effect on heart health and life expectancy. It is also vital that the supplements contain the right amount of the given nutrients and that the nutrients have a quality that enables the body to absorb them, so the active ingredients can successfully reach the cells.
The new study, its results, and its limitations
In the study from Johns Hopkins University, the researchers used data from 277 clinical studies and looked closer at 16 vitamins or other supplements, including various diets, to assess their impact on cardiovascular health and mortality. Data from almost one million participants from all over the globe was included in the review.
The scientists could see that most of the vitamin and mineral supplements were unable to increase life expectancy and protect against cardiovascular disease.
Nevertheless, 41 of the studies (including a total of 134,000 participants) did show that fish oil had a protective effect on the cardiovascular system with the potential to reduce heart attacks and stroke by eight percent. Supplements of folic acid also protected against stroke. Still, the study concluded that the vast majority of supplements with vitamins and mineral has no impact on heart health and life expectancy.
It is worth making a note of the fact that the Johns Hopkins researchers did not study the quality of the supplements or their content of vitamins and minerals, which are otherwise determining factors.
Live longer by getting plenty of sunshine and vitamin D
A group of Danish scientists from Herlev Hospital and the University of Copenhagen carried out a study of 96,000 people, which showed a clear link between low blood levels of vitamin D levels and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and early death. In other words, having enough vitamin D in your blood can protect you against these diseases, and this has even been confirmed in other studies.
However, the outcome of studies of vitamin D supplementation has not been consistent, which is most likely down to the limited content of vitamin D in most supplements. Vitamin D in the blood is measured as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. The official threshold value is 50 ng/ml, but many scientists believe that this is insufficient and argue that it takes up to 75-100 ng/ml to obtain optimal disease prevention.
Because the sun sits too low in the sky during the winter period to enable vitamin D synthesis in our skin, it is advised to take a high-dosed vitamin D supplement in the cold winter months and in situations, where your vitamin D levels are inadequate. The body absorbs and utilizes vitamin D3 better than any other forms of the vitamin, especially if it is dissolved in oil in gelatin capsules.
The KiSel-10 study: Improved quality of life and half as many deaths
The groundbreaking Swedish KiSel-10 study was conducted with old but healthy men and women. The whole purpose of the study was to see if supplements of Q10 and selenium yeast could slow down the ageing process and help people live longer. Q10, a co-enzyme with a key role in cellular energy turnover, is highly important for the hard-working heart muscle. It is also a powerful antioxidant that protects the cardiovascular system. We get a certain amount of Q10 from the food we eat but make most of the nutrient ourselves. The endogenous Q10 synthesis decreases with age.
Selenium helps Q10 function optimally. Also, selenium supports a host of important antioxidants that protect the heart and the cardiovascular system.
|Our Q10 synthesis decreases with age. Also, European farmland contains very little selenium. Therefore, the combination of Q10 and selenium in the KiSel-10 is ideal.|
The KiSel-10 study included 443 older men and women. The participants were split in two groups:
- One group got a daily combination of 200 mg of Q10 and 200 micrograms of selenium yeast. Both supplements were pharmaceutical-grade.
- The other group got matching placebo (dummy pills)
The KiSel-10 study lasted around five years and was headed by a Swedish cardiologist named Urban Alehagen plus a team of scientists from the University of Linköping and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Every six months, the researchers took blood samples to measure levels of various biomarkers of cardiac function. At the same time, the study participants’ quality of life was assessed with help from questionnaires.
The study showed that the participants in the Q10/selenium group had:
- Improved quality of life
- Improved heart function
- Fewer hospitalizations
- 53% lower cardiovascular mortality
The KiSel-10 study is published in International Journal of Cardiology.
Follow-up studies after 10 and 12 years respectively showed that supplementation with Q10 and selenium yeast also had a substantial long-term impact on heart function and lifespan.
|Were you aware that a 65-year-old person produces half as much Q10 as someone who is 25?|
It is important to choose pharmaceutical grade Q10
The outcome of a Q10 study hinges on the quality of the Q10 preparation that is used. Therefore, the effect of the patented Q10 preparation that was used in the KiSel-10 study does not apply to other Q10 products. It all has to do with the absorption of the active Q10 molecules. The body has great difficulty with absorbing Q10 because the Q10 molecules tend to aggregate in large, insoluble crystals that cannot pass through the intestinal wall and enter the blood. The Q10 preparation used in the KiSel-10 study, however, is manufactured using a particular type of oil that is exposed to a special heating process, which enables the Q10 crystals in the oil to dissolve at normal body temperature. Documentation shows that this product is absorbed in the digestive system and works as expected.
|In theory, the bioavailability of a Q10 supplement can be anything from zero to 100%. Only placebo-controlled studies carried out with humans can determine if a Q10 supplement – or any other supplement – actually works.|
Selenium and bioavailability – a matter of life or death
Selenium supports around 30 different selenium-dependent enzymes (selenoproteins) that control energy turnover, the immune defense, the thyroid function, fertility, and cancer prevention. Selenoproteins also work as antioxidants. European crops are generally low in selenium, and even if you eat seafood, which is normally considered a good source of selenium, it can be difficult to get enough of the nutrient. A Danish study showed that people, who ate 1,000 grams of seafood every week were unable to reach the desired intake level for selenium.
Back in 1996, an American scientist named Larry Clark, published the so-called NPC study (Nutritional Prevention of Cancer), in which he documented that daily supplementation with 200 micrograms of selenium yeast containing a combination of different organic selenium compounds lowers cancer mortality by 50%.
In a later study named SELECT, scientists used selenium in combination with vitamin E but failed to demonstrate a protective effect on cancer. They had used L-selenomethionine, which in contrast to selenium yeast does not have any proven effect on cancer. In addition, the vitamin E they used was from a synthetic source.
The take-home message here is that if you use organic selenium yeast, it has the potential to save millions of lives in selenium-depleted regions such as e.g. Europe.
The scientists behind the new study from Johns Hopkins University did not focus on which type of selenium the participants had taken. Besides, much of the American soil is very rich in selenium, which means that selenium supplementation probably does not make much difference, anyway.
Always use supplements with documented quality
The supplement market is a jungle, and you risk being led astray. Therefore, you should always use supplements that have the right quality, so the body can absorb and utilize them, and it is always a good idea to ask for documentation. The quality of the raw materials, the way they have been processed, and the packaging are all of vital importance to bioavailability and effect. This is also the case with the dosage.
Safi U. Khan et al. Effects of Nutritional Supplements and Dietary interventions on Cardiovascular Outcomes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2019
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Vast majority of dietary supplements don´t improve hearth health or put off death, study finds. ScienceDaily. July 2019
David Mantle and Lain Hargreaves. Coenzyme Q10 and Degenerative Disorders Affecting Longevity: An Overview. Antioxidants (Basel) Published online 2019 Feb
Urban Alehagen et al. Cardiovascular mortality and N-Terminal-proBNP reduced after combined selenium and coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Int J Cardiol. 2012
Urban Alehagen et al. Still reduced cardiovascular mortality 12 years after supplementation with selenium and coenzyme Q10 for four years. A validation of previous 10-years follow-up results of a prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial in elderly. PLOS ONE 2018
Clark LC et al. "Effects of Selenium Supplementation for Cancer Prevention in Patients with Carcinoma of the Skin", Journal of the American Medical Association: 276:1957-1963 (1996).
Klein EA et al. Vitamin E and the risk of prostate cancer: The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). Jama 2011
Pernille Lund. Q10 fra helsekost til epokegørende medicin. Ny Videnskab 2014
Pernille Lund. Sund og smuk hele livet. Ny Videnskab 2016
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