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Vitamin E Questioned in Heart Disease Prevention Role

Harvard University researchers turned to the Physicians' Health Study, which began in 1982 and followed participants for up to 13 years to find out if vitamin E and carotenoids protected against heart disease. The researchers compared the levels of carotenoids and tocopherols in the blood of over 500 men who later had a heart attack with those of a control group of similar men who did not have a heart attack.

Blood levels of five major carotenoids were measured, as well as levels of retinol, alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol. Based on the antioxidant hypothesis, they expected people with high levels of these compounds to be at low risk for developing heart disease. But, this is not what they found. Overall, there were was no evidence that the carotenoids or tocopherols protected against heart attacks.

This is an interesting account as it actually measures vitamin E and carotenoid levels in a non-supplement population. So it is possible that the levels of antioxidants in the poor diets were not high enough to generate a difference. It is also possible the assay used in the study did not measure the active isomer of the vitamins.

I don't watch the news, but I suspect this study will make many news stations, thus adding further confusion to the issue. Most of you know that I am a minimalist when it comes to supplements, however there may be some benefits to taking regular vitamin E. But there clearly is some controversy here.

I have believed in vitamin E for over 30 years and have been taking it for many of those years. But the more I study health, the more I realize we don't know. So it all boils down to the basics again. Eat a healthy diet with minimal grains and sugars and as pure as possible. Ideally, it would also be beneficial to eat for your nutritional type.

Circulation August 19, 2003;108(7):802-7

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