11 November 2004


Are you taking 400 IU or more per day of Vitamin E? If so, then you better read this!

A meta-analysis study by researchers of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine of 19 randomized, controlled trials involving more than 135,900 participants found that high-dosage vitamin E supplementation --- defined as 400 IU per day for at least 1 year ---increased all-cause mortality of subjects concerned.

Johns Hopkins University researcher Edgar R. Miller III, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, tells WebMD that when he combined 19 vitamin E studies that looked at almost 136,000 patients, "it was clear that as the vitamin E dose increased, so does all-cause mortality."

He says the risk of death starts to increase at 150 IU, but at 400 IU, which is the typical dose available in vitamin E capsules, the risk of dying from any cause is about 10 percent higher than for people not taking the vitamin. At megadoses, such as 2,000 IU of vitamin E, the risk increased more than 20 percent.

"Based on our findings, high-dose vitamin E supplementation is unjustified," he says. Vitamins, he notes, are not regulated by the FDA or other agencies, but a report in 2000 by the Institute of Medicine recommended 1,000 IU per day as the "upper tolerable limit" for vitamin E. "We recommend that the upper tolerable limit be lowered to 400 IU per day," he says. Adults get about 10 IU of vitamin E from diet, he says.

[WebMD, Nov 10 2004]

The full text of the study can be read here. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin E is 10 milligrams (ATE) for the adult males and 8 milligrams for the adult females.

Vitamin E dosing can be confusing as more often than not, it is expressed in a variety of units:
  • International Units or IU

  • AlphaTocopherol Equivalents or ATE, expressed in milligrams
To prevent confusion, always remember that:

  • 1 mg ATE of vitamin E = 1.5 IU

Vitamin E has been publicized as an antioxidant that may help prevent cardiovascular diseases and cancer. You go to any health store selling vitamin supplements and salespersons will tell you this. Don't be fooled, however. In reality, clinical trials done on Vitamin E had not shown any good benefits for the heart. Other studies (before the study above by the Johns Hopkins researchers) have shown "non-statistically significant increases in total mortality."

The study above is the first study to explore a dose-response relationship between vitamin E supplementation and total mortality by using data from randomized, controlled trials. Other studies have used a single-dose preparation of Vitamin E.

This study is significant because I know a lot of people out there, mostly elders, who take daily vitamin E supplementation in the 400IU preparation. Not only are vitamin supplements gradually being proven as non-beneficial to cardiovascular health, they are also pinpointed as contributors to mortality. A month ago, a study published in the Lancet journal showed that vitamin supplements may increase death rates in individuals taking them.

My advice to you is to get your vitamin and mineral sources from your diet. Nothing beats natural sources. The pills and capsules you buy from the pharmacy are all processed or synthetic. As far as Vitamin E is concerned, you need only 8-10 milligrams (ATE) per day and you can always get it from your diet: eggs, dairy products, vegetable oils, nuts, fruits, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals.

Another thing, don't pop a pill because a friend or a relative recommended it. Ask your doctor what's best for you. Different people have different problems. What may be good for them may not necessarily be good for you. In fact, it may even kill you.

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