About one-third of all U.S. adults, and half of everyone over 55, take nutritional supplements on a regular basis. The annual sale of dietary supplements exceeds $20.0 billion. Antioxidants are the most popular dietary supplements sold to the public. Of these, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) used to be the most widely used. It was estimated that approximately one out of five American adults takes vitamin E on a daily basis.
Most doses vary from 400 to 2000 IU (international units) a day — mainly for the prevention of heart disease, memory loss, and prostate cancer. What I recently did was review the evidence for the heart disease health claim of vitamin E, either alone or in combination with other antioxidants. Scientific evidence comes from two sources: epidemiological (observational) studies and high-quality trials that are “double blind” (so neither patient nor researcher knows who is taking what) and include placebo.
— Epidemiological Studies
There are at least five studies that strongly suggest an increase in dietary vitamin E would lower the risk of heart attack in men and women. In two, people who consumed more than seven mg of vitamin E in their diet were 35% less likely to suffer an attack than those eating three to five mg of vitamin E.
Another two studies found the incidence of heart disease was significantly reduced in those who consume at least 100 IU (67 mg) of vitamin E a day.
Finally, it’s been found that the less vitamin E you have in your blood, the more severe a case you might have of hardening of the arteries.
— High Quality Trials
The best scientific evidence comes from well-designed, double blind, placebo-controlled studies. When I looked at the results of about a dozen of these strong studies, the news on vitamin E wasn’t so great.
Most studies failed to show any benefits of vitamin E alone or in combination with other antioxidants in heart health. This is in stark contrast to the positive findings of the observational studies. There are many possible reasons behind the no-benefit results, including people not taking the requiring vitamin daily or using different forms of the vitamin. But the truth is, these negative findings formed the basis of all the confusion surrounding this critical nutrient.
Tomorrow, I’ll reveal part two with the study that made the news.
In the meantime, read this article, The Alzheimer’s-fighting Vitamin, for more about the powers of vitamin E.