Vitamin E Supplements, There Can Be Too Much Of A Good Thing

2011-07-28 | |
Last updated: 2011-07-28

One of the beliefs that is common to modern society is the idea that if something is good, “more is better”. We see this mindset all the time in late night television ads that promote the latest fad products. In these ads, the pitch man inevitably offers a second set of whatever is being sold just to sweeten the deal, even if we could only ever use only one of the products being sold. Likewise, fast food chains offer “super sized” portions on the same premise.

A similar mindset often holds true in terms of health supplements. Whether we really need them or not, supplements are often promoted as if they can make us even healthier. At the same time, we readily buy into the premise that taking such products can improve our health. We also take larger doses than we need thinking that more is better. However, as another old saying goes, there can be “too much of a good thing”. When it comes to Vitamin E, there are certain times when our health would benefit from additional intake of the vitamin and times when taking it can actually be harmful.

What is Vitamin E?

While nobody is a stranger to vitamins or vitamin E, we may not really know what it does for us. Vitamin E refers to one of many naturally occurring nutrient chemicals found in a large number of foods. These chemicals have antioxidant effects, effects on muscle growth, wound repair, blood clotting, reproduction and mental functioning. When we are deficient in vitamin E, we can suffer from muscle weakness, problems moving, anemia and even impaired mental function.

That said, it is rare to suffer from vitamin E deficiency as a result of diet. Usually Vitamin E deficiency occurs because of an underlying medical problem that prevents the vitamin from being absorbed by the body.

How Many People Take Vitamin E Supplements and Why?

Many people take Vitamin E supplements because of beliefs that it can help prevent cancer and reduce the risks of heart attack and stroke. A 2005 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 1 in 9 adults was taking in excess of 400 IU (267mg) of vitamin E each day. The results were higher for whites among whom 1 in 7 were taking such doses of vitamin E. Vitamin E doses of at least 400 IU are considered to be a high dose.

However, while this information indicates that many people use Vitamin E, the statistics in the study were from 1999-2000. Since that time, several studies have indicated that Vitamin E can have some negative effects on health. As a result Vitamin E consumption has reduced by roughly 60% in the US. That said, it still leaves more than 10 million people in the US alone still taking high doses of Vitamin E. This says nothing of the millions in other countries also taking the supplement.

Unfortunately many taking the supplement for preventative purposes are doing so without benefit. Comprehensive research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2008 did not find any decrease in the risk of heart attack or stroke in those taking Vitamin E. Previous studies from 2005 from McMaster University found no reduction in the risks of cancer either.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks

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