In 2005, a well-publicized study came out showing that taking high doses of vitamin E could actually do you harm. Here I’ll address that study and give you what I consider to be the bottom-line health advice regarding the antioxidant vitamin E.
To the study in question. Researchers looked at 19 previous studies dating back to 1966. The grand total of patients involved in these trials eclipsed 135,000. They found a startling statistic: death from any cause progressively increased if the vitamin dose was greater than 150 international units (IU) a day. This level is well below the tolerable upper intake for vitamin E, set at 1,000 mg of any form or 1,500 IU of natural vitamin E a day.
But these authors concluded that “high-dosage (greater than 400 IU a day) vitamin E supplements may increase all-cause mortality and should be avoided.” One point that doesn’t get a lot of press is that the patients enrolled were older and already had chronic diseases — thus already were at greater risk of mortality.
Also in 2005, Canadian researchers reported a high risk of heart failure for those taking 400 IU a day of vitamin E compared to placebo. Their study group comprised 4,000 adults over 55 with either heart disease or diabetes. In the U.S., about 11% of people consumed at least 400 IU of vitamin E a day through supplements. And, as we get older, we seem to take more.
My bottom line: even though early observational studies showed that high intakes of vitamin E are linked to lower risks of heart disease, better quality trials did not confirm this. Now recent evidence shows that a high dosage of vitamin E (i.e. over 400 IU a day) is associated with higher all-cause mortality.
It would be my suggestion to avoid taking vitamin E supplements directly, but instead to get the nutrient through a standard multivitamin — set at a level lower than 400 IU.
To read my previous article in this series, click here.