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Vitamin E supplements could shorten quality of life

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Confusion about what vitamins to take for better health, and which should be shunned, has continued to cause confusion among consumers. A review of clinical data sets the record straight about vitamin E and its use for preventing heart disease. Researchers from Tel Aviv University have done a comprehensive study about the role of vitamin E for preventing heart disease, finding that vitamin E could do more harm than good, and for some, may shorten quality of life.

"There were so many conflicting reports about Vitamin E and its effect on various diseases, particularly heart disease, that we wanted to set the record straight, says Prof. Dov Lichtenberg of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine.

The scientists took a different approach to try to determine the health effects of vitamin E supplements. The research group studied more than 300,000 subjects in the US, Europe and Israel. "Our major finding," says Dr. Pinchuk, "was that the average quality-adjusted life years (QALY) of Vitamin E-supplemented individuals was 0.30 less than that of untreated people. This, of course, does not mean that everybody consuming Vitamin E shortens their life by almost 4 months. But on average, the quality-adjusted longevity is lower for vitamin-treated people."

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The study about vitamin E is published in ATVB, the Tel Aviv University publication. Applying special parameters that measured the health benefits of vitamin E, the researchers were able to come to the conclusion that people who did not take vitamin E supplements enjoyed more quality-adjusted-life-years (QALY).

Dr. Pinchuk explains, "Consider a participant who was healthy during the first 10 out of 20 years of the study, but then suffered a stroke and became dependent on others throughout the following 10 years. The QALY during the first 10 years of healthy life is 10, but after the stroke the quality of life is only half of what this person had before. Therefore, the second decade is considered the equivalent of merely 5 years of healthy life and in sum a person's QALY is 15.” The study showed that individuals taking vitamin E supplements had a 0.30 reduced quality of life, compared to those who did not take vitamin E, a finding that Dr. Pinchuk feels “says something significant."

The study does not mean that everyone who takes vitamin E supplements shortens their life by almost 4 months, but buying vitamin E supplements also is not likely to do any good, and may do more harm. Some individuals may benefit from taking vitamin E, and finding out who that does benefit is the next hurdle for the researchers. The team also want to investigate the chemical mechanism of antioxidants like vitamin E, touted more than 20 years ago for preventing heart disease from atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the heart arteries), in hopes of better understanding how they work.

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University