Easy does it with vitamin E

Swallowing an amber-colored vitamin E capsule has long been a daily ritual for millions of American women. It may be time to stop.

Today vitamin E is one of the most widely used supplements, taken regularly by nearly a quarter of adults ages 55 and over. Its popularity derives from studies over the years suggesting that vitamin E's antioxidant properties could help stave off common age-related ills, such as heart disease, cancer, and cataracts. Many health care professionals were personally on board, taking the supplement as well as recommending it. Although there was no proof of its effectiveness, the consensus was, "It might help, and it couldn't hurt."

But analysis suggests that vitamin E supplementation might not be as harmless as everyone was assuming. Researchers pooled and examined the results of 19 clinical trials published between 1966 and 2004 involving nearly 136,000 people who took vitamin E for one reason or another. They found that the overall risk of dying was greater for people who took 400 IU (the amount found in a typical vitamin E capsule) or more daily, compared to those who took lower doses (Annals of Internal Medicine, Jan. 4, 2005). And the risk of dying rose with increasing doses above 150 IU per day.

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