Monday, August 6, 2007

Vitamin E Continued Controversary

Unfortunately, the lay press still references the extremely flawed Vitamin E meta-analysis which, for who knows what reason, did not include a number of fairly large positive outcome Vitamin E studies in their analysis.

We receive weekly phone calls from patients who tell us their uninformed doctors continue to suggest they stop taking supplements that include vitamin E, even though The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine, The National Eye Institute, The Academy of Science, The New York Academy of Science, and the Council for Responsible Nutrition all published pieces that refuted the conclusions of the extremely controversial Vitamin E meta-analysis.

Here are some studies they obviously left out of the meta-analysis:

Vitamin E Improves Immune Function

A study on healthy people 65 years of age or older and published in JAMA, found vitamin E supplementation to improve some measures of immune function. Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging indicated that the best responses were observed in people given 200 IUs of vitamin E per day.

Vitamin E Improves Brain Function.

A randomized, double-masked, multicenter two year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that those patients taking 2000 IUs per day of vitamin E increased the level of brain catecholamines, which protect against oxidative damage and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin E Protects Heart Health

In the Nurses’ Health Study, involving more than 87,000 women, Dr. Meir Stampfer and colleagues at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health reported a 41 percent reduction in risk of heart disease among nurses who had taken vitamin E for more than two years. This study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers noted that a beneficial effect of vitamin E on heart disease "is plausible because of the substantial evidence indicating the importance of oxidation of LDL in atherosclerosis." The average vitamin E intake in the lowest-risk group was 200 IU.

Vitamin E Protects Eyes and Lungs

The National Eye Institute supported a Longitudinal Study of Cataract involving 764 participants whose eyes were examined yearly over a period of about five years. The average age of the subjects was 65. Participants who were regular users of multivitamin supplements or vitamin E supplements were less likely to have an increase in lens opacity during the study period.

In a British study of lung function in 178 men and women 70 to 96 years of age who had respiratory symptoms, researchers found that for every extra milligram of vitamin E in the diet, there was an improvement in performance on two tests of lung function. In another study of more than 2600 people in the area of Nottingham, England, higher dietary intakes of vitamin C and vitamin E were associated with improved lung function.

Vitamin E Protects Against Some Cancers

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study that found The Health Professionals Follow-up Study suggested that men who had higher dietary vitamin E intake, or who used vitamin E supplements had a lower risk of bladder cancer over a 12-year period, and "taking vitamin E supplements for 10 or more years decreased risk by more than 30 percent."

Vitamin E Beneficial for Serious Athletes, and All the Rest of Us Too

Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University recently published study results in Free Radical Biology & Medicine indicating that vitamin C and E supplementation for six weeks prior to racing completely prevented the increase in lipid oxidation typical in ultra marathon runners. The researchers noted that the same type of metabolic damage is found often in patients who have experienced traumas such as heart attack, stroke and some surgeries, pointing to the possibility of these nutrients, particularly vitamin E, benefiting even broader groups than elite athletes.


Phillip said...

Scares me to think of getting too much Vitamin E like some health experts recommend. If excess E accumulates in the liver like other fat soluble vitamins, it becomes toxic. So why take more than the body can reasonably use?

Spencer Thornton, M.D. said...

If your statistics don't show what you want, just get more statistics. If the results go counter to what you want people to think, do a meta analysis and exclude the studies you don't like. Isn't research fun?
It's like the old preacher said, "It doesn't matter what you believe. As long as you are honest and sincere, and treat your fellow man right, you'll be a hard man to beat at the day of resurrection."

Ellen said...


Great question!

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine lists the daily Vitamin E safe upper limit (UL) at 1,000 mg per day. That equals 2,326 IUs per day.

Most quality full-spectrum multiple vitamin formulations include no more than 200 to 400 IUs of Vitamin E.

The bottom line: Don't worry, be happy - the amount of Vitamin E included in full-spectrum multiples is not toxic.

Phillip said...

My concern was because I eat healthy most of the time, with wheat germ bread in addition to fortified cereals, almonds, sweet potatoes and mayonnaise on my sandwiches. All these are high in Vitamin E. I also take Macula Complete, so I feel reassured. Thanks for the details about the safe upper limits.

Anonymous said...

Any fool can figure out that food does not contain just one nutrient so who is paying these researchers to collect information guaranteed to make a vitamin or mineral look bad?

David said...

Many consumers of nutritional supplements do not realize that there is an impending danger to their Right to take nutritional supplements, including Vitamin E. Codex Alimentarius, or 'Codex' for short, a part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA, could result in an international body, the World Trade Center (WTC), restricting or banning the personal use of nutritional supplements in order to ‘harmonize’ U.S. law to international standards. Supplement use is severely restricted in many European countries. To prevent this from happening here, consider supporting Dr. Ron Paul for the presidency of the US. Ron Paul understands that individuals have rights and, as a Congressman, has introduced legislation to protect people's right to take nutritional supplements. Check it out at