Q. I read in last week’s paper that vitamin E may be harmful to my health. Is this true? Should I continue taking vitamin E?
A. Many of you may have seen recent articles about a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine claiming that vitamin E may be linked to slightly higher mortality rates. Let’s take a look at the facts.
The study attempted to evaluate the effects of vitamin E by looking at 19 other studies, from 1966 to 2004, which used various doses of vitamin E alone or in combination with other nutrients. The authors put forth the conclusion that vitamin E taken in daily doses of 400 international units or more may have health risks.
The study, however, has significant flaws:
It is not a double-blind, placebo-controlled study — the gold standard in scientific inquiry — and it is based on studies designed for different research purposes. Extracting information about vitamin E from studies not intended for evaluating the vitamin is a poor way of reaching a scientific conclusion.
The authors of the study admit that many of their conclusions are based on research involving older patients with chronic illnesses, and that no definitive evidence exists that the study applies to healthy adults. According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the study “inappropriately tries to draw conclusions for the whole population based on a combination of studies of people who were already at grave risk with existing diseases.”
The study fails to clarify what type of vitamin E was used — another major shortcoming, since significant differences exist between natural and synthetic vitamin E. In fact, the National Institutes of Health states that natural vitamin E is more effective than the synthetic form.
Should you take vitamin E? A wealth of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies show that it can benefit your health. Vitamin E has long been known to be a potent antioxidant that works in fat-soluble tissues to help protect cells from free radical damage. According to the NIH, “vitamin E has been shown to play a role in immune function, in DNA repair, and other metabolic processes.” Clearly, it would be premature to ignore decades of credible scientific research based on one questionable study.
For most people, I recommend taking a daily dose of 400 i.u. of natural vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols as part of a comprehensive supplement program.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com