Q&A: Vitamin E and Heart Attacks

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Q: I just read in Consumer Reports that vitamin E doesn’t help prevent heart attacks. Is this true? If so, is there any reason to take E?

A: As early as 2001, clinical studies around the world were beginning to cast some doubt on the effectiveness of vitamin E in preventing heart attacks, so the Consumer Reports article, although a bit dated, is basically correct.

Like much in medicine, there’s a very big “however” to consider. It seems that the reason the vitamin E wasn’t working is that the researchers conducting the tests used an insufficient dose. Apparently deciding to err on the side of caution, many of the studies used a rather pathetic 110 IU (international units) and based their results on this.

When nothing much happened, this was given as proof that vitamin E was useless. More recently, though, researchers are beginning to conclude the dose should have been higher.

Clinicians at Vanderbilt University reported last August that doses in the range of 3,200 IU showed definite antioxidant protection. Unfortunately, other studies have shown that if you take very large doses of one antioxidant, doing so may block the absorption of others, so chowing down all that vitamin E is probably not a good idea.

What’s the take-away? The very best source of antioxidants is in your diet: green tea and brightly colored fruits and veggies are all good for you.

Given that we’re all endlessly exposed to the disease-causing free radicals that antioxidants so effectively mop-up, I would add a couple of high-potency antioxidant blends to your supplement program. Remember, vitamins are called nutritional supplements for a reason: they’re meant to supplement your good nutrition.

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