Although vitamin E is found naturally in a number of foods, many people take vitamin E supplements in an effort to boost their levels of this essential nutrient. But while individuals with illnesses like liver disease or Crohn's disease may need extra vitamin E, most people can achieve adequate vitamin E intake through diet alone. What's more, some research suggests that improper use of vitamin E supplements may lead to increased risk of heart failure.
Health Claims for Vitamin E Supplements
Vitamin E is known to play a key role in immune function and in certain metabolic processes. Since vitamin E is an antioxidant, it's also thought to fight off free radicals (chemical byproducts shown to damage DNA). Vitamin E supplements are often touted as a natural means of treating or preventing the following health problems:
- Alzheimer's disease
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
- hot flashes
- Parkinson's disease
The Science Behind Vitamin E Supplements
To date, research on the health effects of vitamin E supplements has yielded mixed results. However, the majority of clinical studies indicate that taking vitamin E supplements does not offer a significant health benefit. For instance, a 2005 report reviewed 19 clinical trials on vitamin E and found that vitamin E supplements failed to reduce risk of heart disease or cancer. What's more, the report's authors determined that study members who received a placebo had a slightly longer lifespan (compared to those who took vitamin E supplements).
Despite the lack of scientific support for the benefits of vitamin E supplements, a number of studies show that following a diet high in vitamin-E-rich foods (such as wheat germ oil, almonds, and sunflower seeds) may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and lung cancer.
Should You Take Vitamin E Supplements?
If you're considering the use of vitamin E supplements for prevention or treatment of any type of health condition, make sure to consult your doctor before starting your supplement regimen. You should also talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms of vitamin E deficiency (such as muscle weakness, visual problems, and a poor sense of balance). In some cases, taking vitamin E supplements in high doses may cause adverse effects (including nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea).
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