Do antioxidant vitamins, in regular food or as food supplements, protect against myocardial infarction and stroke? In this systematic literature review on the effects of antioxidant vitamins in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disorders, studies with ischaemic heart disease, stroke or combined cardiovascular events as end-points have been included. Studies on the effects of antioxidant vitamins on intermediary end-points (such as blood lipids and blood pressure) and as secondary prevention in patients with manifest cardiovascular disease are reviewed in a conventional manner. In observational studies (case-control or cohort design), people with high intake of antioxidant vitamins by regular diet or as food supplements generally have a lower risk of myocardial infarction and stroke than people who are low-consumers of antioxidant vitamins. The associations in observation studies have been shown for carotene, ascorbic acid as well as tocopherol. In randomized controlled trials, however, antioxidant vitamins as food supplements have no beneficial effects in the primary prevention of myocardial infarction and stroke. Serious adverse events have been reported. After an initial enthusiasm for antioxidants in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, recent reports from of several large randomized trials have failed to show any beneficial effects. Thus, the apparent beneficial results of high intake of antioxidant vitamins reported in observational studies have not been confirmed in large randomized trials. The discrepancy between different types of studies is probably explained by the fact that supplement use is a component in a cluster of healthy behaviour. Antioxidant vitamins as food supplements cannot be recommended in the primary or secondary prevention against cardiovascular disease.