Gadzooks! "High Doses of vitamin E Found to Raise Risk of Dying" -- a Washington Post headline. "Vitamin E may shorten your life," according to CBS and WebMD. "The more (vitamin E) you take, the more likely you are to die." claimed Edgar R. Miller III, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, and author of the study, mindlessly parroted by much of the mainstream press.
Members of the American Heart Association present for the unveiling of the study last November joined the chorus. Dr. Raymond Gibbins, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, said heart disease prevention guidelines say, "Vitamin E is 'not recommended.' It doesn't get any clearer than that -- don't take it."
Prior research demonstrated overwhelmingly that vitamin E provided important protection against serious diseases. In three large prospective studies, for example, it was found to reduce major coronary artery disease by 41 percent (87,000 female nurses); reduce heart disease by 37 percent in smokers and 48 percent in non-smokers (40,000 male professionals); and reduce all-cause mortality by 34 percent, heart disease by 47 percent and cancer mortality by 59 percent (11,000 patients ages 67 to 105).
A poll taken shortly after release of Dr. Miller's study found that almost 20 percent of Americans were less likely to take vitamin E based on the reports from the study. Some experts were concerned that the wholly-unsupported claims would increase the risk of serious disease.
Barbara Levine, Ph.D., and director of the Nutrition Information Center and associate professor of nutrition in medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, was quoted as saying "If consumers base their lifestyles on this inconclusive meta-analysis, we could see an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers and age-related macular degeneration in an otherwise healthy population."
Author and lawyer, Ken Baker is currently writing a book on 20th-century psychiatry.
Comment: Testing a single nutrient by itself especially in a very ill likely highly depleted population is irresponsible and flawed science. This would be analogous to giving someone only one food repeatedly without any kind of balanced diet, then making global sweeping generalization about the benefits or lack of benefits of that single food.
What we also do not know, is the effect of interactions with medications the high dose E very ill subjects were taking. No doubt some were taking blood thinners or anti platelet drugs. Since Vitamin E can potentiate an increase in clotting time it would augment the effect of blood thinners which would not be a good idea. One way Vitamin E reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease is by decreasing platelet stickiness, yet we do not know how many of these subjects had reduced platelets which can occur in the elderly chronically ill, in which case they would not be good candidates for high dose Vitamin E.
The meta-analysis combined 19 studies, 18 of which showed no statistically significant increase in mortality, one which was a combination study of Vitamin E and estrogen which did . How can you decide the impact of the E verses the Estrogen? What about the study in Parkinson’s patients on Deprenyl and 2000 IU of Vitamin E showing 73 deaths per 399 in the medicated group verses 64 deaths per 401 in the control group? How do you adjust for the Deprenyl verses the vitamin E effects? You get the gist.
The studies in the meta-analysis were not designed to evaluate all- cause mortality and many actually showed positive results on the conditions for which they were designed. They evidenced reduced progression of advanced age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, reduced incidence of heart attacks, slowed progression of atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease, and reduced rates of prostate, lung, colon, rectal, liver, and pancreatic cancers.
There was also no differentiation about the form of Vitamin E given, natural verses synthetic and so on. Some of the researchers used the synthetic DL-alpha tocopherol instead of the more active natural D-alpha tocopherol. There are also mixed tocopherols on the market with beta, gamma and delta forms. The activity of natural or natural source d- alpha tocopherol is about twice that of the synthetic tocopherol.
News of numerous previous positive clinical studies re vitamin E have not been widely reported. This is the case for most positive studies on any nutrients. But the research is there and available to any person searching the web.
For instance, chances are you didn’t read in the paper about the conclusions of a study released in February 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They reported “vitamin E deficiency is more closely linked to death from heart disease than such better-known risk factors as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.” The researchers found there is an “Inverse correlation between plasma vitamin E and mortality from ischemic heart disease in cross cultural epidemiology” This means the lower your vitamin E blood levels, the greater your chance of dying from heart disease. Researchers in this United Nations study said they could predict 62% of heart disease deaths by looking at blood levels of vitamin E.
Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.