~ Vitamin E: Heard a Lot About Vitamin E Lately?
Not Everything You Heard Is 100% Accurate

The Truth About Vitamin E
by Lynn Laboranti, MS, RD

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Heard a lot about Vitamin E in the news lately? Not everything you hear is 100% accurate, and we wanted to take some time to explain the truth about Vitamin E.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently published a report in the online edition Annals of Internal Medicine (Nov. 10) alleging that high-dose vitamin E may increase the risk for mortality. While the case may seem straight forward at first, upon closer examination the conclusions of the study are on shaky ground.

The researchers' conclusions about vitamin E are severely flawed. The researchers drew conclusions about vitamin E use and mortality by combining results from 19 different studies of people that were already at grave risk with existing diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and kidney failure. 18 of those studies showed no statistically significant difference in mortality between people who consumed high doses of Vitamin E and those who didn't. Only one report found a negative correlation and the researchers chose to focus on that instead of the 18 reports that didn't.

In fact, a number of studies in the analysis showed positive results. The researchers even acknowledge this in their analysis: "High-dosage…trials were often small and were performed in patients with chronic diseases. The generalizability of the findings to healthy adults is uncertain. Precise estimation of the threshold at which risk increases is difficult."

It has been recognized in scientific literature that vitamin E does not substantially decrease mortality from heart disease in patients with known coronary artery disease, or for those who are at high risk for the disease. There is, however, a significant body of evidence showing the protective effect of vitamin E among lower-risk populations. Vitamin E may still safely be considered an effective tool in the primary prevention of disease, especially when taken as a preventative over longer periods of time. In addition, a recent study from Tufts University found that vitamin E was beneficial for reducing incidence of upper respiratory infections in elderly persons. Even the FDA has recognized the potential benefits of vitamin E reducing the risk of cancer in allowing the qualified health claim, "Some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of antioxidant vitamins (including vitamin E) may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. However, FDA has determined that this evidence is limited and not conclusive."

While the safety of vitamin E is well-established, the general health risk for too much vitamin E is low. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) set an Upper Tolerable Intake level for vitamin E at 1,000mg or 1,500 IU per day. This upper limit is established to represent the maximum intake for a nutrient that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects in most healthy persons in the general population. The recommendation of 400 IU per day of vitamin E for good health falls safely within these limits.

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