Vitamin E May Not Be All That It is Cracked Up To Be

For years we have told our patients that large daily doses of vitamin E, long touted as a virtual wonder drug containing cancer-fighting anti-oxidants could protect against cancer, heart disease, dementia and other ailments, increase the risk for prostate cancer among middle-aged men.
In 2001 he National Institutes of Health launched a $119 million project to study prostate cancer after laboratory studies and some clinical data indicated that the anti-oxidant vitamin E and selenium might protect against prostate cancer, the second most common cancer and cancer killer in men.
The study followed more than 35,533 men age 50 or older at 427 sites in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The men were divided into four groups who took daily doses of 400 international units of vitamin E and 200 micrograms of selenium; vitamin E and a placebo that looked like selenium; selenium and a placebo that looked like vitamin E; or two placebos.
An independent panel monitoring the experiment halted the study in 2008 when it became clear there was no benefit and indications emerged the supplements might be increasing the risk for prostate cancer and diabetes.

The analysis of data from more than 35,000 healthy men concluded that those who took vitamin E every day at the relatively large dose levels were 17 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer.
The study concluded that vitamin E is unlikely to help prevent prostate cancer but it apparently could harm the very men who were taking the vitamin for its beneficial effect.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and are the latest in a series of carefully designed experiments that have found that vitamins and other dietary supplements are useless or possibly dangerous.
Bottom Line: If you are taking vitamin E, I suggest you discuss this with your physician and be certain that the beneficial effects are worth the increased risk of taking vitamin E.
Neil Baum is a urologist and a clinical faculty member at Tulane and LSU medical schools in New Orleans. He blogs at Blog: Dr. Neil Baum’s Urology Blog


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