Taking antioxidant vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of pneumonia in some middle-age men who smoke, suggests a new study from Finland.
Pneumonia causes inflammation of the lungs leading to coughing, chest pain, fever and difficulty breathing.
In this study, the researchers focused on nearly 22,000 middle-aged men who began to smoke at age 20 or younger and had been randomly assigned to take either 50 milligrams of vitamin E each day or a placebo for comparison.
Vitamin E raised the risk of pneumonia by 61 percent in men who were an average of 132 pounds. In heavier men who smoked, the supplement more than doubled pneumonia risk when compared to their peers who didn't take vitamin E.
The increased risk of pneumonia in smokers was seen only when the men also supplemented with high levels of vitamin C. The reasons for these findings are unclear at this point, says the study's author.
Vitamin E and C are antioxidants which help to neutralize cell-damaging substances called free radicals that are linked to chronic disease.
Recent studies have found no evidence that vitamin E or other antioxidants protect against ills like prostate cancer, heart disease or stroke.
This study was published in the online issue of the Nutrition Journal on November 19, 2008.
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