Study Finds High Doses Of Vitamin E May Be Harmful

Oct 11, 2011

Over the years, certain vitamins and minerals have been touted as useful in warding off cancer, dementia and other diseases. That’s often followed by studies that disprove the claim or raise serious doubts. The cycle continues this week with news from the Cleveland Clinic about megadoses of vitamin E. Anne Glausser from member station WCPN has the details.

Vitamin E helps people stay healthy—it boosts the immune system and protects from damage caused by things like ultraviolet sunlight and air pollution.

It’s found naturally in nuts, oils, and green vegetables, as well as in a typical multivitamin.  Limited research has indicated that it could also boost brain and heart health when taken in high doses. 

But a large new study shows that loading up on vitamin E might not be a good idea.

Men who took vitamin E alone were at a 17% higher risk of getting prostate cancer," says Dr. Eric Klein. He treats prostate cancer at the Cleveland Clinic and is lead author of the study that appears this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study followed over 35,000 men for 7 years.

At first researchers thought vitamin E might offer some protection from prostate cancer.  But results show the exact opposite.

Klein says that there is a broad message, "Taking things like vitamins, which many people believe are innocuous substances, actually can be harmful."

The study tested megadoses of vitamin E, on the order of 400 units.  There’s no evidence that smaller doses of the vitamin, like the amount found in a typical multivitamin, would increase your risk of prostate cancer.

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