People hoping vitamins can protect their hearts need to eat healthy foods instead of popping pills, according to the American Heart Association.
A review of various studies on whether supplements can reduce heart disease risk shows they have virtually no effect, the group said.
"At this time, there is little reason to advise that individuals take antioxidant supplements to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease," said Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University who led the study.
Antioxidants are molecules that work to reduce the damage done to cells and to DNA by free radicals -- charged chemical particles found in the environment and caused by everyday biological processes.
It is clear that foods rich in antioxidants can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and scientists have been working to isolate the particular compounds responsible. Vitamins, such as A an C, are antioxidants.
But several research studies have shown that people who took antioxidant supplements did not have a lower risk of cancer or heart disease, and one important Finnish study showed that male smokers who took supplements actually had a higher risk of lung cancer.
Nutritionists and doctors now argue it is probably a combination of compounds in foods that give the healthy antioxidant benefits.
"The American Heart Association continues to promote a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains... to derive antioxidant vitamin benefits,"
- AOL News