~ Vitamin E Controversy: Understanding the Discrepancy

You may have heard that vitamin E supplements can be valuable for heart health. However, a recent study has cast a shadow of doubt on vitamin E's benefit. Let's take a closer look at this study.

The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation study, also known as the HOPE study, evaluated the effect of vitamin E at preventing heart disease. In this study over 9,500 high-risk cardiovascular individuals were given a daily vitamin E supplement (400 IU vitamin E per day) over the course of four to six years. Researchers found supplemental vitamin E to lack heart protective properties.

Countless studies have documented that vitamin E is a powerful fat-soluable antioxidant that may be beneficial at promoting heart health.Why then this apparent contradiction with the HOPE study?

There are several reasons why this discrepancy may have occurred:

  • Nutrient Level: Individuals who already have signs of cardiovascular disease may need more than 400 IU of vitamin E per day since they have a greater oxidative demand.

  • Length of study: Longer-term vitamin E usage than four to six years may be required. Heart health is a lifetime commitment.

  • Population group: The studied represents a narrow segment of the total population. They were mostly men (73%) with either cardiovascular disease or diabetes in addition to one other risk factor (smoking, hypertension, obesity, elevated cholesterol). Results in this small subgroup cannot necessarily be extrapolated to a healthy population.

  • Synergy with other nutrients: Vitamin E may exert its effect in concert with other nutrients. Population studies that found an association between higher dietary intake of vitamin E and lower rates of coronary heart disease, also found higher vitamin E consumption to be associated with higher intake of a number of other oxidants and micronutrients.


What does the HOPE study mean to you? Should you give up "hope" on vitamin E supplements?

It is important to remember that one study, whether positive or negative, does not decide an issue. These results need to be evaluated within the context of the entire body of scientific literature.

The preponderance of the evidence supports both the safety and the efficacy of vitamin E and thus anyone who is currently taking vitamin E supplements should not discontinue or change their supplementation habits based on this study. Supplementation has an important place within the context of a healthy diet.

References:

  1. Hope Study Investigators. Vitamin E supplementation and cardiovascular events in high risk patients. N Eng J Med 2000;342:154-60.
  2. Knekt P, et al. Antioxidant vitamin intake and coronary mortality in a longitudinal population study. Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:1180-9.
  3. Kushi LH et al. Dietary antioxidant vitamins and death from coronary heart disease in post-menopausal women. N Eng J med. 1996;334:1156-62.
  4. Klipstein-Grobusch K, et al. Dietary antioxidants and risk of myocardial infarction in the elderly: the Rotterdam Study. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:261-6.
  5. Stephens NG et al. Randomized controlled trial of vitamin E in patients with coronary disease: Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS). Lancet 1996;347:781-16.


Source: Nutrilite.2004 Access Business Group LLC.


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