Should I take vitamin E supplements?

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
In the 1970s, megadoses of vitamin E in amounts up to 1,000 IU (about 45 times the Recommended Dietary Allowance [RDA]) were touted as a way to enhance your sex life, improve your immune response, and boost your well-being over all. But there's little or no evidence for such claims, some of which were based on studies in rats. In fact, two meta-analyses suggest that taking vitamin E supplements might increase a person's risk of dying early. One documented an increased risk of death in people taking 400 IU of vitamin E or more daily; the other found a slightly higher risk of mortality with vitamin E either alone or combined with up to four other antioxidants. These findings, coupled with other research showing no beneficial effects from vitamin E supplements for heart disease, cancer, or cognitive decline, make a strong case for avoiding these amber-colored capsules altogether.
There isn’t any known risk of consuming too much vitamin E from natural food sources. However, the overconsumption of the synthetic form that is found in supplements and/or fortified foods could pose risks.

Because vitamin E can act as an anticoagulant and interfere with blood clotting, excess amounts in your body increase the risk of hemorrhage. Because of this, the upper level from supplements and/or fortified foods is 1,000 milligrams for adults. This applies only to healthy individuals consuming adequate amounts of vitamin K. (Vitamin K also plays a role in blood clotting. A deficiency of vitamin K can exacerbate the anticoagulant effects of vitamin E.) Individuals taking anticoagulant medication and vitamin E supplements should be monitored by their physician to avoid the serious situation in which the blood can’t clot quickly enough to stop the bleeding from a wound.

While the upper level of 1,000 milligrams was set to keep you safe, it may actually be too high. A study showed that those at risk of heart disease who took 400 IU (265 milligrams) or more of vitamin E daily for at least one year had an overall higher risk of dying. One theory is that too much vitamin E may disrupt the balance of other antioxidants in the body, causing more harm than good.

You should always consult with a registered dietitian prior to consuming supplements to make sure that they are appropriate for you.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
At one time, vitamin E was the king of antioxidants, credited with all kinds of antiaging, disease-fighting powers. Then came study after study showing that taking more than 400 international units of E a day actually increased deaths from any cause. While antioxidants like E may fight oxidation damage in the blood, they sometimes cause it inside your cells.

Worse, researchers now report that vitamin E might encourage certain hormonally driven cancers. So do not take more than 30 international units per day. There's very little E in food (unless you suck down wheat germ oil), so no worries there. What's in your multi will cover you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.