Q&A with Urban Alehagen
Cardiology Associate Professor Urban Alehagen discusses heart supplements.
How can a person tell if a particular dietary supplement is beneficial to their heart?
That's a major question, because a supplement might be beneficial... but then it might not be of any use at all. So it's very important that the company producing a particular supplement can prove that it has conducted tests that show, for example, how much of the capsule or tablet actually gets into the blood stream. People should ask their pharmacist or doctor for the latest information about a heart supplement that they are considering taking.
Are heart supplements usually prescribed — or bought over the counter? And who needs them?
Up to now, in most European countries and the western world, the majority of patients buy supplements over the counter. People who take them don't necessarily have a history of heart problems. Of course, there are well-educated physicians who know that some people in some areas need dietary heart supplements. For instance, in Europe, compared to the US, we have low contents of selenium in the soil; and selenium is the most powerful antioxidant we have — plus it plays a major part in energy production.
Is much research being conducted into the area of heart supplements?
Not enough: but in order to launch a clinical study, you need a lot of money. I know this from experience! In 2003, we started two studies: a Q-Symbio study, looking at people with heart failure; and a KiSel-10 study to see what happened if we gave ordinary, healthy, elderly people a coenzyme supplement called Q-10, which acts as a cell membrane protecting antioxidant. The main result of the KiSel-10 study was that we found we could reduce cardio-vascular death by more than 50 per cent. That's a remarkable amount. Now we need to get more studies published — and, when we do, we can show that this is something the body needs and can take without experiencing side-effects.