New Study Finds Vitamin E Prevents Heart Disease Deaths
LifeSource VitaminsHealthnotes Newswire (September 8, 2005)-Vitamin E supplementation significantly reduced the number of heart disease-related deaths over a ten-year period in healthy women, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association (2005;294:56-65). This study confirms previous reports showing a beneficial effect of vitamin E on heart function and contradicts research published earlier this year suggesting that vitamin E has adverse effects on the heart.
In the new study, 39,876 apparently healthy American women over the age of 45 were randomly assigned to receive a vitamin E supplement (600 IU every other day) or a placebo for an average of 10.1 years. During the study, there were 24% fewer deaths due to heart disease in the women receiving vitamin E than in those receiving the placebo. The number of nonfatal heart attacks and strokes, on the other hand, did not differ significantly between the vitamin E and placebo groups; nor was there any difference in all-cause mortality.
This study adds to the large body of research on vitamin E and heart disease, research that is often confusing and contradictory. Some studies have clearly shown that vitamin E prevents heart disease, whereas others have shown no benefit at all, or even found there to be potential harm. The conflicting results may arise in part from the fact that nearly all vitamin E research has used only one fraction of natural vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), though vitamin E occurs in food in four forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol). Supplementing with large amounts of alpha-tocopherol by itself may cause a deficiency of gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that has been shown to have a number of positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Consequently, it appears that supplementing with mixed tocopherols (which contain all of the naturally occurring forms of vitamin E) would be safer and more effective than using alpha-tocopherol by itself.
Another possible explanation for the contradictory findings is that many other nutrients besides vitamin E are necessary to promote a healthy heart. Nutrients work in the body as a team, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. People deficient in heart-protective nutrients such as magnesium, chromium, selenium, vitamin B6, copper, or omega-3 fatty acids might not benefit from vitamin E supplementation until these deficiencies have been corrected. For that reason, vitamin E should be used as part of a comprehensive nutritional program that includes a wide variety of whole foods and a broad-spectrum multivitamin-mineral supplement.
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