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Vitamin E: Less Is More

For the past decade, many health-conscious consumers have upped their intake of vitamin E in an attempt to prevent diseases and increase longevity. Now a new study has found that high doses of vitamin E may in actuality increase the risk of dying prematurely. This conclusion was important enough to warrant both a warning at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in November 2004 and a simultaneous online release on the website of the Annals of Internal Medicine, which published the study findings.

The researchers arrived at their conclusion after studying mortality rates observed in more than 14 clinical trials, conducted from 1993 to 2004, all of which compared vitamin E supplementation to placebo use.

According to the study authors, there was no increased risk of death when people took a daily dose of 200 International Units (IU) of vitamin E. However, an increased risk was detected at amounts above 200 IU per day, and a “significant” risk was noted starting at 400 IU per day. Subjects who exceeded 400 IU per day were about 10% more likely to die than those whose vitamin E intake was lower.

“Many people who take vitamin E supplements take between 400 and 800 IU in a single capsule,” according to lead author Edgar R. Miller, MD, PhD.

The researchers recommended that people stop taking vitamin E supplements immediately, but said that taking smaller doses as part of a multivitamin was not determined to be harmful. Most multivitamins on the market today contain 30–45 IU of vitamin E, which was found to be a safe amount.


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