The Myth About Vitamin E


The myth about Vitamin E takes its beginning in 1980 when scientists began to understand that free radicals were involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis, and might also contribute to cancer, vision loss, and other chronic conditions. They assumed that Vitamin E has the ability to protect cells from free radical's damage as well as stop the production of free radicals entirely. However, conflicting study results have dimmed some of the assumption of using high dose Vitamin E to prevent chronic diseases.

McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario held a seven-year-long, study that enrolled 10,000 people at high risk of heart disease and diabetes. The findings showed that Vitamin E is not worth it. It provides no protection against heart disease, stroke, or cancer. But even more to it, Vitamin E actually causes more harm than help. All participants were over age 55. Half of them got high-dose Vitamin E - 400 IU every day (about 400 milligrams) - and half got fake pills that looked just the same.

They noticed that those who were taking Vitamin E had significantly more heart failure. They saw no benefit on cancer, diabetes, or any heart related issue. It led to increased hospitalization for heart failure by 21%.

B. Greg Brown, MD, PhD, head of the atherosclerosis research lab at the University of Washington School of Medicine, was one of the first scientists to suggest that Vitamin E and other antioxidant vitamins may not work the way they were supposed to. "Vitamin E has been very clearly shown to be of no benefit to the general problem of cancer or heart disease," Brown says. "Studies are still looking at whether Vitamin E can help prostate cancer, mouth and throat cancer, and severe macular degeneration, but all in all, there is relatively little hope for a major effect. There is not a lot of hope for Vitamin E. It's proven to be without benefit."

Vitamin E naturally exists in many foods we eat, and in that form, it is not harmful. We can find it in: plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, wheat germ oil, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, beet greens, collard greens, spinach, pumpkin, red bell peppers, asparagus, mangoes, avocados.

Because Vitamin E is found in a variety of foods and supplements, a deficiency in it is rare. The problem can be only in people who have digestive disorders or do not absorb fat properly. For example, it is pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis or celiac disease. These people can develop a Vitamin E deficiency and may require taking it in supplements.

If you do not have any of such health issues, you do not need to take additional Vitamin E other than the one you naturally consume with your food. There is no evidence of toxic effects from Vitamin E found naturally in foods or even in small amounts in supplements. However, there is a risk of excess bleeding, particularly with doses greater than 1000 mg daily or if an individual is also using a blood thinning medication. Today doctors advice not to take a supplement which contains more than 400 IU of Vitamin E. Researchers found a higher rate of death in trials where patients took more than 400 IU of supplements a day.

Dr. Helen Delichatsios, Harvard Women's Health Watch advisory board member and who held the Harvard "Preventative Medicine and Nutrition" research said, "We dropped Vitamin E as a debate topic, because recent data overwhelmingly shows that Vitamin E is not useful."

So, if there is no benefit is there any point of taking it? Is the risk of taking something that can actually harm worthy taking it? Since Vitamin E shows no signs of benefits when taken in supplements and can actually harm, I believe it is not worthy of taking it.