In brief: Women's study finds vitamin E, aspirin not so helpful

In brief

Women's study finds vitamin E, aspirin not so helpful

After one of the longest clinical trials ever completed, researchers conclude that regular use of aspirin and vitamin E does little or nothing to stave off heart disease or cancer.

These findings come from the Women's Health Study (WHS), the largest ever to study the effects of aspirin and vitamin E on disease prevention in women. The 10-year investigation involving nearly 40,000 subjects was led by researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Earlier results from the same study showed that low-dose aspirin does not protect most women from a first heart attack, although it modestly reduces their risk of stroke. (Among women 65 and older, aspirin does reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and ischemic stroke.) Vitamin E supplements have long been touted for the prevention of chronic disease on the basis of animal studies and observational data, but there has been no adequate test until this study.

The findings, published in the July 6, 2005, Journal of the American Medical Association, leave open the possibility that higher doses of aspirin may be helpful. The WHS also established that it's safe to take vitamin E supplements at the level of 600 IU every other day, countering another analysis that suggested harm at 150 IU or higher per day, and particularly in excess of 400 IU per day.

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