Background: The role of dietary antioxidant vitamins in preventing coronary heart disease has aroused considerable interest because of the knowledge that oxidative modification of low-density lipoprotein may promote atherosclerosis.
Methods: We studied 34,486 postmenopausal women with no cardiovascular disease who in early 1986 completed a questionnaire that assessed, among other factors, their intake of vitamins A, E, and C from food sources and supplements. During approximately seven years of follow-up (ending December 31, 1992), 242 of the women died of coronary heart disease.
Results: In analyses adjusted for age and dietary energy intake, vitamin E consumption appeared to be inversely associated with the risk of death from coronary heart disease. This association was particularly striking in the subgroup of 21,809 women who did not consume vitamin supplements (relative risks from lowest to highest quintile of vitamin E intake, 1.0, 0.68, 0.71, 0.42, and 0.42; P for trend 0.008). After adjustment for possible confounding variables, this inverse association remained (relative risks from lowest to highest quintile, 1.0, 0.70, 0.76, 0.32, and 0.38; P for trend, 0.004). There was little evidence that the intake of vitamin E from supplements was associated with a decreased risk of death from coronary heart disease, but the effects of high-dose supplementation and the duration of supplement use could not be definitely addressed. Intake of vitamins A and C did not appear to be associated with the risk of death form coronary heart disease.
Conclusions: These results suggest that in postmenopausal women the intake of vitamin E from food is inversely associated with the risk of death from coronary heart disease and that such women can lower their risk without using vitamin supplements. By contrast, the intake of vitamins A and C was not associated with lower risks of dying from coronary disease.