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Americans are still taking large doses of Vitamin E despite the growing mountain of scientific evidence demonstrating people who take fairly high doses of Vitamin E are slightly more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and from all causes combined.

What about Alzheimer?s?

While hope for Vitamin E supplements protecting against CVD are fading, many Americans continue to take large doses of Vitamin E in the belief it may protect against Alzheimer?s disease. Some small studies had suggested a benefit, however the largest double-blind study to date on the effectiveness of Vitamin E supplements in 769 older people with mild cognitive impairment found taking 2,000 IU of Vitamin E daily for 3 years did not delay the development of Alzheimer?s disease or the loss of mental function over time compared to a placebo. The results of this study are published in the June 9, 2005 New England Journal of Medicine1. Perhaps this should not be surprising as the risk factors for Alzheimer?s disease are very similar to CVD. Elevated levels of LDL, homocysteine and CRP in the blood, as well as hypertension, obesity and type 2 diabetes, have all been associated with increased risk of CVD and an increased risk of senility.

Vitamin E increases cancer risk

An 8-year follow-up study of subjects given a supplement of 400 IU of Vitamin E or a placebo starting the day they received radiation treatment for head and neck cancers for 3 years found a nearly 3-fold increased risk of second primary cancers and recurrences of the initial cancer. Interestingly, during the next 5 years of follow-up, the subjects who had stopped taking the Vitamin E had less than half the risk of another tumor. This suggests that the increased cancer risk caused by taking Vitamin E appears to reverse when the supplement is discontinued.2

By James J. Kenney, Ph.D., RD, FACN

References

1. N Engl J Med. 2005;352.

2. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005; 97:481-488

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