Supplement Problems: Vitamin E

By AltMed1-Peggy  



Just when you think you know what supplements you should be taking, research throws a monkey wrench  into the works.


Vitamin E is probably best known as an antioxidant supplement that helps to prevent harm that can be caused by free radicals, and helps protect against viral and bacterial infection by boosting immune system strength. It also helps prevent blood clots.


Many studies exploring the use of Vitamin E found benefits, including that it helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, helps repair the plasma membrane that protects cells in body, helps protect the brain after a stroke, may reduce risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when taken long-term. 


Most said it was safer to get vitamin E from foods than from taking supplements. There was some concern when  evidence suggested that taking long-term, high doses of vitamin E caused a slight uptick in the risk of death from all causes but, as reported, “human research is conflicting,” and their advice said, “Caution is warranted.”


Some research in 2002 reported that taking vitamin E with selenium, a mineral, could prevent prostate cancer in men. But in October 2011, further analysis showed the opposite. Instead of reducing risk of prostate cancer, vitamin E increased it. Compared to men who took a placebo, those who took 400 IU of vitamin E each day for seven years had a 17 percent increase in prostate cancer. (Taking E with selenium wasn’t beneficial either.)  “Based on these results and the results of large cardiovascular studies using vitamin E,” study co-chair and Cleveland Clinic physician Eric Klein, MD, said in a National Institutes of Health / National Cancer Institute news release, “the supplements have shown no benefit and some very real risks.”


The study, Vitamin E and the Risk of Prostate Cancer, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on October 12, 2011, and may be read online at no charge.  (JAMA. 2011;306(14):1549-1556. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.14370)


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