Scientists are won over by the benefits of supplements


May 30, 1997

USA Today has reviewed the recent news on the benefits of vitamin E and solicited comments from leading researchers on the benefits and risks of taking vitamin E supplements. For benefits, they report, "There is evidence that it protects against heart disease, slows the aging process, combats the effects of air pollution and reduces the risk of cataracts and some types of cancer."

Reporter Nancy Hellimich also mentioned the recent study showing vitamin E could boost resistance to infection. This study followed a report that it delays the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

The article notes that numerous scientists are taking it, more doctors are recommending it, and the public is taking it.

USA Today says, "The most compelling potential health benefit of vitamin E is its connection to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E stops the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. It halts the first step in a long chain of reactions that leads to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, explains William Pryor, a vitamin E researcher and director of the Biodynamics Institute at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge."

The article reports Dr. Chris Rosenbloom, associate professor of nutrition, Georgia State University as noting that "Unlike most vitamins, vitamin E isn't found in sufficient quantity in food to provide the benefits. Research indicates that the amount needed to help the heart is about 400 International Units (IU) a day, and it's impossible to get doses of 400 IU from food."

To get 400 IU of vitamin E from almonds would mean eating 46 ounces a day--about 46 handfuls or almost 1,000 nuts. That would rack up a whopping 8,000 calories and 658 grams of fat, Rosenbloom says.

Reporter Hellmich adds, "So it would seem vitamin E supplements are the answer, and researchers are hard-pressed to find any reasons why people shouldn't be taking them. Even if vitamin E can't do everything recent research suggests, most scientists say it's insurance and can't hurt."

"Vitamin E is one of the rare vitamins for which the news has been all positive," Pryor says.

Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, ads, "For healthy people, there is really virtually no evidence of downsides of vitamin E in the doses commonly used, 200 IU to 400 IU." He takes 400 IU.

The article also discusses the fact that many doctors have been won over by the vitamin E research. Robert Butler, 70, director of the International Longevity Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says that early in his career he used to tell people to get their vitamins and micronutrients from food. But now for his patients, who are older, he recommends 400 IU of vitamin E; 500 milligrams of vitamin C, a multi-vitamin and a baby aspirin daily. Plus, he advises a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes five servings of fruits and vegetables.

Best-selling diet book author and healthy heart advocate Dean Ornish says 10 years ago he didn't recommend vitamin E, but since the evidence of its benefits has mounted, he recommends it to everyone.

"The risks are so negligible, the costs are so small and the potential benefits are so great, it makes a lot of sense to consider taking them," says Ornish, who takes 400 IU daily.