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Vitamin E Supplements Decrease Cardiovascular Death in Older Women

By David Stauth, OSU News and Communications Service

Source: Maret Traber, Ph.D., Linus Pauling Institute

Results of a major 10-year controlled study of almost 40,000 women were published in the July 6, 2005 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The research looked at the effects of supplements of vitamin E and aspirin on heart disease and cancer. Its overall conclusions were that supplementation with 600 IU natural source vitamin E every other day provided no benefit for preventing major cardiovascular events and cancer; that cardiovascular mortality was reduced; and that use of vitamin E supplements in healthy women for prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer is not recommended.

Dr. Maret Traber, a principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute and a leading expert on vitamin E, disagrees with some of the overall conclusions of this report.

“This research is actually one of the most exciting studies in a decade to show the profound benefits of vitamin E in older women, around the ages where they generally begin to get heart disease. And that’s important, because among women over 65, heart disease is the number one killer.”

“A point this research didn’t really address is that younger women don’t have much of a problem with heart disease - only 3.6 percent of women ages 55-64 have this problem. Our own research at OSU has shown that women are more capable than men of responding to oxidative stress, which may explain why they usually develop heart disease only later in life as those protective mechanisms break down.”

“The data from this study showed that in a group of about 4,000 women over age 65, supplementation with vitamin E caused a 26 percent decrease in major cardiovascular events, a 34 percent reduction in heart attacks, and a 49 percent reduction in cardiovascular death.”

“In other words, data from this study show that in women over 65, the age group most affected by coronary problems, the death rate from heart disease was cut almost in half if the women took vitamin E supplements. However, the report’s authors concluded that vitamin E supplements provide no benefit in preventing cardiovascular problems and their use is not recommended. I find that conclusion inexplicable.”

Reference: Lee et al. JAMA. 2005;294:56-65.