The Vitamin E Controversy

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The Vitamin E Controversy

A common complaint among people who study nutritional information is researchers are always changing their minds about what’s good for you.

The problem is, 2 different studies using the same nutrient can produce contradictory findings.

This is because nutrients are eaten in different amounts, making it almost impossible to figure out the exact intake of a single compound.

And, the only way to completely isolate a nutrient for study would be to remove it entirely, and this would risk making a person ill.

Vitamin E serves as a perfect example of these challenges and why there’s often conflicting data among nutritional studies.

In 2004 a group of researchers reported consuming vitamin E in supplement form of more than 200 IUs per day actually increased the chances of dying.

Previous studies, and these were many, had been fairly consistent in their findings of 400 IUs of vitamin E actually reducing the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.

How’s it possible researchers came up with such different conclusions about the same vitamin?

First, in the 2004 study, participants were rarely given vitamin E on its own.

Usually it was given with beta-carotene and vitamin C.

Other studies have shown beta-carotene increases the risk of death in smokers.

So some of the increased risk of death attributed to vitamin E was likely related to smokers who took both nutrients.

Second, the study included all forms of vitamin E.

Sometimes vitamin E was given as alpha-tocopherol and sometimes as mixed tocopherols, and since each has distinct biological effects, they can’t be lumped together.

Third, because most participants were over 60, and a majority had preexisting conditions, like heart disease, applying these results to younger, healthy adults may not be correct.

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Dick and Lenay

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