Scientists say there is no evidence that vitamin or mineral pills protect against or help to treat heart disease.

Experts in the US say current research does not show enough evidence that vitamin or mineral supplements are beneficial for preventing or treating heart disease, with the exception of folic acid for reducing stroke risk.

They say that the recommendation to adopt healthy diets that are heavy in plant-based foods (from which these vitamins are derived naturally) should be reinforced.

Vitamins and minerals have long been used to treat nutrient deficiencies; however, in recent years supplements have been promoted as a means for overall health and longevity.

In Australia, data shows about 47 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men are taking supplements.

Despite high use, there is no agreement on whether individual vitamins or minerals or combination supplements should be taken to prevent or treat heart disease.

In their latest review, researchers looked at 179 randomised controlled trials on vitamin and mineral supplement use published from January 2012 to October 2017 to determine if a benefit existed.

Researchers found that data on the four most commonly used supplements—multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C—showed no consistent benefit for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction or stroke, nor was there a benefit for all-cause mortality.

Folic acid alone and B-complex vitamins in which folic acid was a component did show a reduction in stroke; however, niacin (vitamin B3) and antioxidants were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality.

The one exception seems to be the benefit of folic acid for stroke prevention. A 2015 publication from the China Stroke Primary Prevention Trial (CSPPT) study showed that folic acid supplements may reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke risk. The review also showed a 20 per cent reduction in stroke with folic acid alone.

Dr Carly Moores - an Associate Lecturer and Research Associate in the College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Flinders University who was not involved in the study – says the message is pretty clear.

“In most cases, the best way to consume the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health – including to minimise your risk of chronic disease and cardiovascular disease – is to consume a diet rich in foods from the five food groups, and in particular the vegetables, legumes and beans group,” Dr Moores said.

“We know that less than 4 per cent of Australian children and adults regularly consume the recommended serves of vegetables and legumes/beans as per the Australian Dietary Guidelines (Australian Health Survey 2011-12, Australian Bureau of Statistics).

“To increase your vegetable intake, include vegetables in each of your daily meals and incorporate them as snacks during the day.”

The study is accessible here.