Many Americans take too much vitamin E, says CDC

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Related tags: Dietary supplement, Vitamin

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added fuel
to the fire over vitamin E with the publication of a report showing
that 11.3 percent of survey respondents consume more than 400 IU a
day from vitamins, minerals or other dietary supplements, writes
Jess Halliday.

The data for the report, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine​, was collected from 4609 adults over the age of 20 as part of the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The researchers took as background the idea that people who consume at least 400IU of vitamin E per day may be slightly at risk for premature mortality.

This potential danger was highlighted in three recent, widely publicized studies, which have caused concern amongst consumers and had a significant impact on the dietary supplements industry in the US.

The first study, a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials published in the Annals​ in January, found that vitamin E in doses exceeding 400IU a day was associated with a "small increase in mortality from all causes"​.

Then, in March, the New England Journal of Medicine​ published a Women's Health Study in which participants consumed 600IU of vitamin every other day, with similar conclusions to the meta-analysis.

Finally, the 'HOPE TOO' study in the Journal of the American Medical Association​ in the same month linked 400 IU of vitamin E a day to an increased risk of congestive heart failure.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) pointed out that this study involved people who already had heart disease or very strong risk factors and who were taking numerous medication.

The CRN has been at the forefront of seeking to reassure consumers about vitamin E. In a major review of scientific literature published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ in April, John Hathcock, VP scientific and international affairs, concluded that for the general population vitamin E is safe at intakes up to 1600 IU per day.

Most recently a study published in this month's issue of JAMA​ (the largest ever, involving 40,000 American women) concluded that vitamin E is unlikely to prevent heart disease or cancer but it could lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death in older women.

According to the Dietary Supplement Information Bureau, vitamin E, an antioxidant, has benefits for cardiovascular health, cancer, diabetes, aging, pain relief and general health.

The RDA for most adults is 10mg per day, or 15 IU.

The NHANES also showed the median dietary intake of vitamin E to be 8.8 IU per day, meaning that without supplementation it is extremely difficult to have an intake in excess of 400IU.

The journal editors said that the implications of the CDC report were that "many adults may be taking vitamin E supplements that have no proven clinical benefits and might be harmful."

While the CDC's Earl Ford and colleagues wrote that "health care professionals are well situated to ask their patients about the use of various vitamin supplements and offer advice about their judicious use"​, they also noted a 2002 study, again published in the Annals of Internal Medicine​, which showed that as many as 64 percent of doctors have a daily vitamin E intake in excess of 400IU themselves.

Related topics: Research, Vitamins & premixes

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