Vitamin E consumption too high among US adults

July 20, 2005 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Vitamin E consumption too high among US adults
Study findings released in the past few months have suggested that taking high doses of vitamin E (greater than 400 IU/day) don�t prevent heart disease or cancer and may be associated with adverse health effects in high risk people (those with heart disease or diabetes). What�s more, a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that over 11 percent of the American population is currently consuming over 400 IU a day.

The potential dangers associated with high doses of vitamin E have been highlighted in three recent studies. These studies claim that consuming over 400 IU of the vitamin can be linked to a 4% increased risk of dying and a 13% higher risk of heart failure, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened.

While over 11 percent of American adults consume greater than 400 IU of vitamin E per day, current research indicates that the median dietary intake of vitamin E is 8.8 IU per day. Research also indicated that intakes of vitamin E increased with age.

L.B.�s Note: Despite the compelling findings of �no benefit� in preventing or treating heart disease, not all researchers are giving up on vitamin E supplements. In fact, vitamin E may play an important role in other health conditions. Scientists from the U.S. National Cancer Institute are in the process of determining whether men who take 400 IU of the vitamin each day have a lower risk of prostate cancer. (In 1994, researchers reported that male smokers who took 50 IU of vitamin E for five to eight years had a lower risk of prostate cancer.)

Research has also linked a daily dose of vitamin E (400 IU), along with beta-carotene, vitamin C, zinc and copper, to a reduced risk of progression of age-related macular degeneration in people over the age of 55. (Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older adults.)

And there�s evidence that vitamin E in foods, and also when taken as supplement (400 to 800 IU) in combination with vitamin C (500 to 1000 milligrams), can lower the risk of Alzheimer�s disease in healthy older adults. However, randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these observational findings.

My advice? Get what vitamin E you need by eating a variety of foods. Healthy men and women require 15 milligrams (22.5 IU) of vitamin E per day. The best food sources include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.

If you have existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes, avoid high dose vitamin E supplements. If you do take a supplement, take no more than 100 IU per day (the meta-analysis that reported a higher risk of death at 400 IU found no harm at 100 IU).

If you don�t have heart disease or diabetes? At this time, there�s no good evidence to warrant popping a vitamin E pill to prevent getting heart disease or cancer. If you take vitamin E to reduce the risk of Alzheimer�s, or in the hopes it might prevent a heart attack down the road, stick to 400 IU per day (and don�t forget to take extra vitamin C).

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.