cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

The Great UK Vitamin Scare {2} – Vitamin E

I’m taking these one at a time. The previous post mentioned B6, which was not generally mentioned in the media reports, which concentrated on the harmful effects of high doses of vitamins A ( or its precursor beta-carotene), C, D, E and mineral Selenium.

Vitamin E supplements ‘could cause up to 27 per cent increase in lung cancer’ Dail Mail 4 March 2008:

University of Seattle


  • A study of more than 77,000 people found that taking moderate to high doses of vitamin E led to a “slight but significant” increase in risk of the cancer
  • study is not the first to link vitamin supplements to lung cancer, with previous research showing that beta carotene, a building block of vitamin A, can raise the risk by as much as 18 per cent.
  • The increased risk was equivalent to seven per cent rise for every extra 100 milligrams of vitamin E taken per day over 10 years.
  • This translated into a 28 per cent increased risk of lung cancer for someone regularly taking a high 400 milligram dose of the vitamin.

A standard supermarket Vitamin E contains 400 iu (international units). 1 iu = 0.67 mg. or 268 mg. per 400 iu capsule.

Before this recent survey there have been newspaper health articles suggesting that vitamin E is as important as vitamin C as anti-oxidant in attacking the dreaded free-radicals.

But there were scare stories on Vitamin E as well. This BBC News report of 11 November 2004,

High dose vitamin E death warning: Elderly people could be risking their lives if they take even moderately high doses of vitamin E, evidence suggests.

based on a John Hopkins study, points out :

  • People who took daily vitamin E doses exceeding 400 “international units” (IU) per day (equivalent to about 270mg) had an increased risk of death by about 10% compared with those who did not.
  • People who took daily vitamin E doses exceeding 400 “international units” (IU) per day (equivalent to about 270mg) had an increased risk of death by about 10% compared with those who did not.
  • In the UK, the Food Standards Agency recommends a daily intake of between 3-4mg or 4.5-6 IU. It sets an upper safety limit of 540mg (800 IU) per day, which is twice as high as the level found to be harmful in the study.
  • In the US, the safety limit is as high as 1,000mg or 1,500 IU per day.
  • Vitamin E supplements have been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • In the study, there was no increased risk of death with doses of 200 IU (133mg) per day or less, and there was evidence to suggest these doses might be of some benefit.
  • The researchers said policy makers should consider lowering the maximum dose to 400 IU (about 266mg) per day.
  • Dr Richard Siow, a lecturer in the cardiovascular division at King’s College London. said: “The medical community and the public should treat these findings with a degree of caution since this analysis combines the results from a very broad spectrum of epidemiological studies carried out over 38 years, utilising doses of vitamin E supplementation between 16.5 to 2000 IU per day.”

This CBS report (16 April 2008): Vitamins A, E and beta-carotene increase mortality, not longevity: study

  • Copenhagen University Hospital
  • 67 randomized clinical trials with 232,550 participants.

One issue for these studies is which Vitamin E they use. Vitamin E hydrochloride (E HCl or dl-alpha on the label) is synthetic: ‘natural’ Vitamin E (d-alpha).

If you are into this business of trying higher levels of vitamins, one tip is that some are fat soluble (e.g. vitamin E), while others (e.g. vitamin C) are water soluble. Excess water soluble vitamins can be flushed out by the kidneys, while fat soluble ones tend to be stored in the body for longer periods.

April 17, 2008 - Posted by | vitamins |

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: