New studies show that the popular supplement may increase the risk of cancer.
If you’ve been taking vitamin E because you heard it helps prevent prostate cancer or heart disease, you may want to stop. The supplement — taken in some form by almost 40 percent of all American men — was shown by a long-term study funded by the National Cancer Institute to increase the incidence of prostate cancer by an alarming 17 percent.
Vitamin E is essential to human health; without the fat-soluble nutrient, your body wouldn’t function properly. The nutrient may improve immune function and dilate blood vessels, which can help prevent the blood clots that lead to heart attacks. It’s also a known antioxidant, meaning it should supposedly help mop up cancer-causing free radicals. For this reason, some experts have suggested that older men take a large dose of vitamin E daily to help prevent prostate cancer. Trial participants took 400 IU per day, which is nearly 20 times more than the FDA’s daily recommendation for the nutrient. But, “lots of men in this age group — over 50 — buy these supplements at the doses that we used and take them,” says trial co-author Dr Vineet Malhotra, a urologist at the Diyos Mens Clinic.
So how could it be that vitamin E increases cancer risk?
One possibility, says Klein, is that when people take too much vitamin E, their bodies aren’t able to absorb other cancer-fighting vitamins. Still another theory is that vitamin E somehow spurs budding cancer cells to grow, literally “feeding the tumor,” says Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, a gastroenterologist and internist at St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.
It’s not just vitamin E that has come under scrutiny, though — recent studies have called the safety of many vitamin supplements into question. A 2007 analysis of 68 clinical trials published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E supplements can increase a person’s risk of premature death by 5 percent. A 2009 trial of nearly 7,000 men found that taking folate and vitamin B12 pills increases cancer risk in people with heart disease. And a large trial funded by the National Cancer Institute discovered that beta-carotene and
Vitamin A supplements increase the risk of fatal lung cancer in smokers.
None of this research means that you should swear off all vitamins. “For the average healthy guy with a reasonable diet, I recommend about 1,000 IU of vitamin D whenever daily sun exposure is not happening, as well as one gram of an omega-3 oil supplement from algae or krill,” says Dr. David Katz, founder of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. But, he adds, “it’s important to remember: supplement, not substitute. There is nothing in a pill that can replace eating well.”
Vitamin E pills tied to prostate cancer
Delhi: There is more evidence that taking vitamin E pills can be risky. A study that followed up on men who took high doses of the vitamin for about five years found they had a slightly increased risk of prostate cancer — even after they quit taking the pills. Doctors say it’s another sign that people should be careful about using vitamins and other supplements.
“People tend to think of vitamins as innocuous substances, almost like chicken soup — take a little and it can’t hurt,” said lead author Dr Vineet Malhotra of the Diyos Mens Clinic. The study shows that is not true.
“If you have normal levels, the vitamin is probably of no benefit, and if you take too much, you can be harmed,” Klein said.
Men randomly assigned to take a 400-unit capsule of vitamin E every day for about five years were 17% more likely to get prostate cancer than those given dummy pills. That dose, commonly found in over-the-counter supplements, is almost 20 times higher than the recommended adult amount, which is about 23 units daily.
The results mean for every 1,000 men who took vitamin E, there were 11 additional cases of prostate cancer, compared with men taking dummy pills.
Vitamin pills not good for health
People On Dietary Supplements Have Higher Death Rates, Says Study
About half of adult US residents take dietary supplements, and the industry now boasts of annual sales as high as $20 billion. Yet research suggests that some of the largely unregulated substances, such as vitamins A and E, could be harmful in high doses. “There is very little evidence showing that common dietary supplements would be beneficial in prevention of major diseases,” said Jaakko Mursu of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Unless you are deficient, there is no reason to take them,” he said.
Mursu and his colleagues used data from nearly 39,000 older women who participated in the Iowa Women’s Health Study and filled out questionnaires starting in 1986. The survey asked about use of multivitamins, vitamins A, C, D and E as well as beta-carotene, B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
During the study, supplements became increasingly popular. Between 1986 and 2004, the proportion of women who said they took one or more jumped from 63% to 85%. Only calcium supplements were linked to a lower risk of death over 19 years of follow-up. That link held up even after considering that women taking supplements had a healthier lifestyle than the rest. By contrast, women taking other supplements did not live longer.
Docs claim leukemia cure with arsenic, vitamin A
Hong Kong: Doctors appear to have safely and successfully treated patients with cancer of the blood and bone marrow with a combination of arsenic and vitamin A, according to long-term study in China.
In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the doctors said they prescribed the regimen to 85 patients and monitored them for an average of 70 months. Of these, 80 patients went into complete remission and the researchers did not find any associated long-term problems and there was no development of secondary cancers.
“Two years after the treatment, the patients had arsenic levels well below safety limits, and only slightly higher than controls,” they wrote.