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Multiple Choice: The Vitamin Debate

Q. What about taking some extra antioxidants?

There's some hope that antioxidant vitamins such as E may help stave off cardiovascular disease, but research is mixed. Several years ago the large and long-term Nurses' Health Study found that women who took vitamin E supplements had lower rates of coronary heart disease. But in new research from Harvard Medical School, women who popped extra E, C, and beta-carotene had no greater protection against heart attacks, heart disease, or stroke than those who didn't take them. Another recent analysis of studies actually revealed a higher risk of death among those who took extra beta-carotene and vitamins A and E. "People seem to respond differently to these extra doses, and that's probably due to genetics," says Kulik. Talk to your doctor before taking vitamins or minerals beyond a regular multi—some may be unsafe given your health history or even interact with other medications you're taking. Another warning: Smokers shouldn't take high amounts of vitamin A or beta-carotene since research shows they may promote cancer.

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