March 16, 2005
There are three things your doctor doesnt know a thing about: vitamins, sex and lower back pain. If you are interested you might check out the latest on that first category: the alleged benefits of vitamin E. [Confession: I take 400 IU daily and have for years--which shows you how much I know]. The newest study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this time out of Canada, shows absolutely no benefit in preventing cancer or cancer deaths, and for some people--those with diabetes or heart disease--it may actually be dangerous. Evidence in the study--the well-respected Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation or HOPE study--shows an increase in heart attacks. Even the people doing the study were surprised. Dr. Eva Lonn, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said When we designed the trial, we expected this intervention, vitamin E supplements, to be beneficial. We were surprised that there were no benefits. The study seems to replicate an earlier study done at Hopkins last year. Vitamin E is one of those oxidants touted for years (Ive done stories myself) as a sovereign elixir that prevented cancer, heart disease and cured everything except perhaps flatulence. For most of these supplements, the evidence is real if a tad tenuous. Laboratory rats, of course. Vitamin E, was regarded for many years as the most complex and beneficent of the anti-oxidants, but the research on actual humans, has not supported the hype. Now the picture is worse. Will people now taking the vitamin stop? Not yet. Not yet.