Between 1986 and 1991, 29,584 persons took part in a randomized nutritional intervention trial in Linxian, China, an area whose residents had chronically low intakes of several nutrients and high rates of esophageal and gastric cardia cancer as well as stroke. Using a one-half replicate of a 24 factorial design, we randomized individuals to one of eight groups which received combinations of four supplements: retinol and zinc (factor A); riboflavin and niacin (factor B); vitamin C and molybdenum (factor C); and beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), and selenium (factor D). Deaths that occurred during 5 years of supplementation were ascertained and classified according to cause. At the end of the supplementation period, we measured blood pressure readings and determined the prevalence of hypertension. Participants who received factor D had reductions in total mortality (9%) and total cancer mortality (13%). These individuals also had the largest reduction in stroke mortality (relative risk = 0.91; 95% confidence interval = 0.76-1.07). End-of-trial hypertension, however, was not less prevalent among those receiving factor D. Our findings contrast with the larger reductions in stroke death and hypertension found in a parallel trial of Linxian subjects with esophageal dysplasia who received a multivitamin/mineral supplement, suggesting an effect largely derived from nutrients other than those received in the present study.
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