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Vitamin E
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that fights damaging natural substances known as free radicals. It works in lipids (fats and oils), which makes it complementary to vitamin C, which fights free radicals dissolved in water. As an antioxidant, vitamin E has been widely advocated for preventing heart disease and cancer. However, the results of large, well-designed trials have generally not been encouraging. Many other proposed benefits of vitamin E have also failed to stand up in studies. There are nomedicinal uses for vitamin E with solid scientific support.

Observational studies raised hopes that vitamin E supplements could help prevent various forms of cancer as well as heart disease . 1 However, observational studies are notoriously unreliable for determining the effectiveness of treatments. Only double-blind trials can do that (for information why, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? ), and such studies have, on balance, found vitamin E ineffective for preventing heart disease or any common form of cancer other than, possibly, prostate cancer. 2 . In fact, use of high-dose vitamin E for a long period might slightly increasedeath rate. 3 Other potential uses of vitamin E have limited supporting evidence.

Intriguing but far from definitive studies suggest that vitamin E might improve immune...

Safety Issues

The safe upper intake level (UL) of vitamin E for adults is set at 1,000 mg daily. 4 The equivalent amounts are 1,500 IU of natural vitamin E and 1,100 IU of synthetic vitamin E. (For technical reasons, the conversion factor is a bit different than in the daily intake recommendations above.) For pregnant women under 19 years of age, the upper limit is 800 mg.

Vitamin E has a blood-thinning effect that could lead to problems in certain situations. In one study of 28,519 men, vitamin E supplementation at the low dose of about 50 IU synthetic vitamin E per day caused an increase in fatal hemorrhagic strokes, the kind of stroke caused by bleeding. 5 However, it reduced the risk of a more common type of stroke, 6 and the two effects essentially canceled...