“Vitamin E: who is this antioxidant-lovin’, controversy causin’ vitamin?
I don’t know about you, but I took nutrition class in college and keeping Vitamin A from D from K from Z and X (okay, just joking about Z and X) can be tough. However, in the past few years, Vitamin E has made itself widely known. In 2005, two separate studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and Journal of the National Cancer Institude claimed that Vitamin E actually raised people’s chances of mortality. Obviously, there is more behind that story, but before we get there, let’s meet our friend Vitamin E…
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin loaded with special antioxidants. Not only does it protect your skin for UV rays, cigarettes and pollution, but it also allows your cells to communicate effectively, boosts immune function and helps prevent both heart disease and cancer. If that isn’t enough to make you want to chow down on the E, it also helps keep metabolic functions running smoothly. Wouldn’t we all like a nice metabolism boost?
Raw sunflower seeds, dry roasted almonds and olives are the three foods most abundant in Vitamin E, but papaya, almost all greens (swiss chard, spinach, mustard, turnip), hazelnuts, blueberries, broccoli and mango are all good sources as well. For both men and women over the age of 14, doctors recommend about 15mg a day, which equals out to…
2 ounces dry roasted almonds
1 cup olives + 1 cup boiled swiss chard + 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds
1 tablespoon wheat germ oil
2 tbsp. peanut butter + 2 cups boiled spinach + 2 medium kiwis + 1 ounce sunflower seeds
Real vitamin E deficiencies are rare, but those with digestive system problems may suffer from low vitamin E levels due to malabsorption. Be sure to check with your doctor regarding ANY symptoms you might have. Vitamin E supplements are available and are usually included in a daily multivitamin as well.
When obtained from just food sources, Vitamin E has no known toxicities. However when taken in supplemental form about 3000 IU (international units), Vitamin E may cause cramping, diarrhea, fatigue and weakness. No good – especially if you happened to have a hot date that night or something :). Like all vitamins & minerals, it’s best to try and get your RDA through whole foods but if that isn’t possible, supplements are the next best step.
Where does the controversy come into play?
From 2004 to 2005, several studies were published, including a report from Johns Hopkins University, that stated exceeding 400 IU (almost equivalent to 600 mg.) of Vitamin E could increase the risk of death. From 1993 to 2004, doctors analyzed Vitamin E supplementation in various clinical trials of more than 136,000 patients and found those taking doses of Vitamin E higher than 400IU had a 10% higher risk of death than those taking placebos. Immediately a firestorm of controversy emerged, with many people wondering who to believe.
There were several issues raised after the study was published, including:
- Most of the patients in the trials were over the age of 60 and had pre-existing health problems;
- Different forms of Vitamin E (both synthetic & non-synthetic) were used in the studies;
- Several of the studies were not solely focused on Vitamin E;
- Media coverage of the results were found to have sensationalized the data; and
- The meta-analysis was not a controlled trial (meaning other variables were at play).
What do you do now?
You go chomp on your greens, eat those nuts and munch on that fruit! Many doctors, including holistic healer Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Julian Whitaker, maintain Vitamin E plays a large role in supporting cardiovascular health, immune function and helps prevent against many diseases. Doctors recommend trying to ascertain as much of your Vitamin E through whole, real foods as you can and supplement only if necessary.
Hoffer, Abram, M.D., PhD. “Vitamin E.”
“Vitamin E.” www.whfoods.org.”
Vitamin E Fact Sheet.” National Institutes of Health.