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

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

What are the Health Effects of Too Much Vitamin E?

Slightly Increased Risk of Dying

When taken in large doses, Vitamin E can be damaging to our health. Researchers from Tel Aviv University found from analysis of studies involving 300,000 participants that those taking high dose vitamin E had an overall poorer quality of life on average. Admittedly, this is a fairly vague statement. More directly, a 2007 analysis of more than 180,000 study participants in 47 different trials by the Cochrane Group found that taking vitamin E increased the risk of death by 4%.

While certainly not a large number, it does point to an unnecessary risk in taking the supplement when it is not required.

Higher Lung Cancer Risk

Other health risks also exist. A study lead by the University of Washington found that the risk of lung cancer increased by 5% for every additional 100 mg of vitamin E taken daily over a 10-year period. This means that individuals taking high daily doses of vitamin E (400 IU/267 mg), were increasing their risk of lung cancer by more than 20% over those who did take a high daily dose. The effect was most noticeable amongst physically inactive smokers.

Higher Risks of Pneumonia in Smokers

In addition to the higher risks of cancer, related research also found higher risks for pneumonia among smokers. Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Helsinki found that physically inactive smokers increased their risk for developing pneumonia by 79% when they took vitamin E supplements. With people in this category already having a higher chance of lung cancer, taking supplements that boost pneumonia risk and cancer risk is certainly not a good idea.

Higher Risks of Stroke

Lastly, Vitamin E can actually increase the risk of one type of cardiovascular health problem that people have believed the supplement can protect against. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital studying the preventative health effects of taking numerous vitamins found that individuals taking high vitamin E doses (400 IU) daily had a 74% higher risk of suffering from a stroke caused by internal bleeding.


The idea that “more is better” is certainly not always the case especially when it comes to supplements. In the same way that it makes little sense to give medication to someone who does not have a medical problem, supplementing Vitamin E in those who do not need it is also not a good idea. Even worse is taking high doses of these supplements when there is no evidence that they can help our health. More than anything, it is important to recognize supplemental vitamins as something we should only use to correct deficiencies. Do not try to fix what is not broken.

All this said, there are situations where Vitamin E can provide benefits for some people. A future article will look at the many ways in which Vitamin E can benefit certain people with specific medical needs.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks

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