Risks from Antioxidants, Including Vitamin E

In our series on antioxidants, we noted that there is some indication that certain antioxidants may actually be hazardous to one's health. Now, a new study publishes in Annals of Internal Medicine (v 142, 2004, on-line) concludes that vitamin E supplements, in doses starting at 400 International Units per day, may increase all-cause mortality.

This conclusion is the result of a meta-study ( a study in which results from many previous studies are combined), all involving comparison of a group taking a vitamin E supplement, with a placebo-taking group. The assignment of people to either of the groups was randomized. (These are the most reliable types of studies). They find that for 10,000 people, the added risk of using vitamin E (at and above 400 IU) was 39 - that is 39 more people died as a result of taking vitamin E during the years of the trials. The Margin of Error was 3 to 74. Lower doses do not show any increment in risk.

We note that the margin of error is large, reaching almost to zero (no incremental risk). Also, reading through the study, we note that the combining of data from different studies is not a straight forward process, and sometimes human judgment is required. This could also impact the accuracy of the results.

In our opinion, we need to understand that vitamin E certainly does not enhance longevity! Combined with the rest of the information we have presented elsewhere, it reiterates that there is no known benefit to taking antioxidants, and that there is a possibility that taking them is actually detrimental.

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Last Modification - November 11, 2004