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Antioxidant Supplement Linked to Deadly Heart Disease & Stroke, New Study Finds

What researchers discovered about beta-carotene supplements may make you think twice before taking them.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

Trust us, we're well aware of the fact that making sure that you're eating a proper diet isn't always easy. That's why it can sometimes be beneficial to add a few supplements to your regular routine. While taking supplements may be common, it's important to note that you need to be careful when it comes to what you happen to be taking. As it turns out, some supplements might be doing more harm than good. In fact, a new study has found that the  beta-carotene supplements have been linked to serious and even potentially fatal health issues.

In the study that was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers took a look at data from 884 previous studies that involved 883,627 participants. While analyzing the effects of various supplements—including omega fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, and others—they found that synthetic supplements formulated with the antioxidant beta-carotene were connected to a higher risk of both cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and all-cause mortality.

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middle-aged woman looking at supplement bottles
Shutterstock / Dean Drobot

"The findings demonstrate the importance of optimal nutrition intake, particularly of specific nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acid and folate," Johna Burdeos, RD, tells Eat This, Not That! "In the study, these two nutrients in supplement form help reduce the risk for CVD events. Ample research shows their health benefits."

"The mechanism behind how beta-carotene supplementation increases CVD risk is not yet fully known," notes Burdeos. "[However,] adequate evidence shows the supplement form of beta carotene has no cardiovascular benefit."

"We also know that taking too high of a supplement dose of any nutrient could potentially lead to adverse effects," continues Burdeos. "This is why it's important to talk to your doctor if you feel as though you need a supplement. There is such a thing as 'too much of a good thing,' and the body tends to want balance."

"Beta-carotene supplement for the general population is not recommended," adds Burdeos. "Other research shows that beta-carotene supplementation is harmful in people who smoke cigarettes—increasing the risk of lung cancer. We also know that smoking not only increases the risk of lung cancer but also other conditions such as heart attacks and diabetes."

"Nevertheless, the natural beta-carotene from foods, such as green, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables, gets converted to vitamin A in the body," says Burdeos. "Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes and skin."

"In general, supplements should not replace food," concludes Burdeos. "Aim to have a more nutritious diet by adding health-promoting foods to your diet. Only supplement if there are gaps—your doctor will help you identify gaps."

Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more about Desirée