High-Dose Vitamin E May Shorten Life Span
High Doses Increase Risk of Death From All Causes, Research Shows
Nov. 10, 2004 (New Orleans) -- Vitamin E hasn't proven to be good for the heart, and now a study suggests that too much vitamin E -- daily doses of 400 IU or more -- actually increases the risk of dying, according to new findings.
Johns Hopkins University researcher Edgar R. Miller III, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, tells WebMD that when he combined 19 vitamin E studies that looked at almost 136,000 patients, "it was clear that as the vitamin E dose increased, so does all-cause mortality."
He says the risk of death starts to increase at 150 IU, but at 400 IU, which is the typical dose available in vitamin E capsules, the risk of dying from any cause is about 10% higher than for people not taking the vitamin. At megadoses, such as 2,000 IU of vitamin E, the risk increased more than 20%.
"Based on our findings, high-dose vitamin E supplementation is unjustified," he says. Vitamins, he notes, are not regulated by the FDA or other agencies, but a report in 2000 by the Institute of Medicine recommended 1,000 IU per day as the "upper tolerable limit" for vitamin E. "We recommend that the upper tolerable limit be lowered to 400 IU per day," he says. Adults get about 10 IU of vitamin E from diet, he says.
Miller presented his findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2004, and the study was simultaneously released online by the Annals of Internal Medicine.
'Don't Take' Vitamin E Supplements
"This is the most important story from this meeting," Raymond Gibbons, MD, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., tells WebMD. Gibbons, who served as chairman of the scientific program committee at the meeting, says he has been urging his patients to stop taking vitamin E for years.
He also says heart disease prevention guidelines say "vitamin E is 'not recommended.' It doesn't get clearer than that -- don't take it."
Studies of vitamin E supplements in people with heart disease have not shown that vitamin E is effective in preventing heart attacks or deaths.
His voice rising as he describes his frustration with patients that "don't take drugs that we know work, yet take a supplement because they heard about it on the radio or because a neighbor recommended it," Gibbons says he hopes this latest report will finally debunk the vitamin E myth.
That is unlikely, judging from the response from the trade group that lobbies for the supplement industry. Annette Dickinson, PhD, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, tells WebMD, "Eighteen of the 19 studies in the analysis showed no statistically significant increase in total mortality. I believe he pooled the data to arrive at a conclusion that is based on a statistical artifact."