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Jewish World Review
Vitamin E hype
Harvard Health Letters
Vitamin E is a popular supplement, hyped to improve your health for everything from the brain to the bedroom. However, the science backing up those claims is largely inconclusive.
Now, a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine further suggests that too much vitamin E may even weaken your bones.
Researchers found that rats given megadoses of vitamin E developed bones 20 percent weaker than those of rats on a normal diet. The amount of vitamin E given the rats was proportionately far in excess of what most human beings consume in their regular diet, or what is in a typical vitamin E supplement.
But you should still be careful how much vitamin E you consume, cautions Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
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The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is only 15 milligrams (mg), although many vitamin E supplements come in 400 mg doses, and the upper limit of what is considered a safe dose of vitamin E is 800 to 1,000 mg per day.
"More recent meta-analyses suggests that doses above 400 mg a day may be harmful," says Dr. Bistrian.
UNDERSTANDING VITAMIN E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties that help protect cells against breakdown. That suggests that antioxidants may protect against cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, but Dr. Bistrian says high doses don't equate to more protection.
"Unlike most medicines, nutrients are often harmful when taken in relatively small amounts above what would be considered beneficial," he says. "According to this study, it seems that megadoses of vitamin E can increase the breakdown of bone."
He notes, however, that one must be careful when applying the results of animal studies to humans. "It is a large leap from rodents to man," Dr. Bistrian says.
GETTING YOUR VITAMIN E
Vitamin E deficiency is rare in industrialized societies, though Dr. Bistrian says that diseases affecting absorption of food from the intestine, such as cystic fibrosis and celiac syndrome, can lead to deficiencies in vitamin E.
If you want your RDA of vitamin E from dietary sources only, consider adding more nuts and green vegetables to your diet. Just one ounce of almonds contains about 7 mg of vitamin E-- nearly half the daily allowance--while half a cup of spinach has about 2 mg. -- Harvard Health Letter
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