Wednesday, March 16, 2005

That leaves sex and lower back pain

New vitamin E study shows we haven't found the elixir of life quite yet.
March 16, 2005
There are three things your doctor doesn’t 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 (I’ve 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.


clint said...

At least in moderation, vitamin E isn't likely to be particularly dangerous.

Thanks to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, just about any sort of snake oil can be sold as though it were medicine. The occasional studies like these showing that a highly-touted alternative medical treatment doesn't actually work are bad enough. There's no legal requirement for anyone to show that they are even safe. Ephedra was just the tip of the iceberg.

Becky said...

This isn't shameless self-promotion, though I wrote the release, but too much Vitamin C isn't so wonderful.

I like the new blog, Joel -- I've been sort of following your stuff since I was a UCSC sciwriting student. One suggestion (and I wish I could give you a idea of how to do this): I use Mozilla as my RSS reader. In the left hand sidebar, other blogs and news sites have little icons next to their stories that change when I've read an entry. Yours doesn't, but it would be great if it did.

Bill Thomasson said...

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that 400 IU of vitamin E in combination with 15 mg of vitamin A, 500 mg of vitamin C, and 80 mg of zinc reduced the risk that early or intermediate age-related maculaer degeneration would progress to the vision-impairing advanced stage (although it had no discernable effect on prevention of earlier stages). I've been taking that for several years now. Even though I already have advanced AMD, my retinal specialist though it was worth while.