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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Science is Good for Health--Vitamin E Not So Much

Many people, including me, routinely take a variety of supplemental pills on the belief (or shall we say the hope) that they will improve our health, or at the worst do no harm. New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that with respect to Vitamin E, this may be a dangerous assumption, at least for men.

There is more evidence that taking vitamin E pills can be risky. A study that followed up on men who took high doses of the vitamin for about five years found they had a slightly increased risk of prostate cancer — even after they quit taking the pills.
Doctors say it's another sign that people should be careful about using vitamins and other supplements.
"People tend to think of vitamins as innocuous substances, almost like chicken soup — take a little and it can't hurt," said lead author Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic. The study shows that is not true.
"If you have normal levels, the vitamin is probably of no benefit, and if you take too much, you can be harmed," Klein said.
Men randomly assigned to take a 400-unit capsule of vitamin E every day for about five years were 17 percent more likely to get prostate cancer than those given dummy pills. That dose, commonly found in over-the-counter supplements, is almost 20 times higher than the recommended adult amount, which is about 23 units daily.
So, why were people taking Vitamin E? Well, for the reason that it had been promoted as being beneficial for your health, even though there was no scientific evidence to support that claim.
Vitamin E supplements have long been promoted for disease prevention, but scientific research has disproven many claims and suggested they might increase risks for some conditions, including heart failure.
Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society noted that the study echoes previous thinking on beta-carotene, which once was thought to protect against cancer but more recently has been linked with increased risks for lung cancer, especially in smokers.
"There should be a global warning that ... excessive use of vitamins has not been proven to be beneficial and may be the opposite," Brawley said.

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