Here is what we now know about vitamin E from recent randomized, controlled clinical trials involving vitamin E:
Vitamin E and Cardiovascular Disease
In the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation trials using a seven year study, looked at nearly 10,000 patients with vascular disease or diabetes and found no heart benefit from taking 400 I.U.'s of vitamin E daily. In fact patients 55 and older taking vitamin E were more likely to develop heart failure, which prompted the heart association warning.
The Women's Health Study, in a 10 year study of nearly 40,000 healthy women 45 and older found no overall benefit in taking 600 I.U.'s of vitamin E every other day for major cardiovascular events or total mortality. There was, however, a 24 percent reduction in cardiovascular deaths.
In the Physicians' Health Study report release in November studied 14,641 men 50 and older for eight years. It was found that 400 I.U.'s of vitamin E every other day had no effect on the incidence of major cardiovascular events, including cardiovascular deaths.
Vitamin E and Cancer
The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation trials looked cancer and found no differences in cancer incidence or deaths during the seven-year follow-up that could be attributed to vitamin E.
The Women's Health Study found no significant effect of the vitamin E on total cancer incidence or cancers of the breast, lung or colon, nor any effect on cancer deaths.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association two major reports on vitamin E alone or in combination with the mineral selenium or vitamin C, would protect men against prostate cancer. The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial followed 35,533 men for more than five years from 427 locations in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. It found no benefit, but did find a "statistically nonsignificant increased risk of prostate cancer" in the group taking 400 I.U.'s a day of vitamin E. The second study, a continuation of the Physicians' Health Study, found that among male doctors who took 400 I.U.'s of vitamin E every other day and 500 milligrams of vitamin C every day; there was no decreased risk of developing prostate cancer or cancer.
In a 2007 study financed by the National Cancer Institute found that smokers who took vitamin E supplements had a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Vitamin E and Alzheimer's Disease
An independent review of studies published last year, by the Cochrane Collaboration, found no reliable evidence for the ability of vitamin E to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment, not even at doses of 2,000 I.U.'s a day.
Vitamin E and Bleeding
Concerns have been raised about the safety of vitamin E supplementation, particularly in high doses. An increased risk of bleeding has been proposed, particularly in patients taking blood-thinning agents such as warfarin, heparin, or aspirin, and in patients with vitamin K deficiency.
Vitamin E and Blood Clotting
Vitamin E diminishes the clotting tendency of blood and may result in ugly bruises from small bumps.
Vitamin E and Macular Degeneration
Vitamin E is part of complex formulations that have been found to slow the progression of macular degeneration. But no one can say if vitamin E has played any role in the benefits seen with these products.
Bottom Line on Vitamin E and Health
The best chance for leading a long and healthy life comes not from vitamin E, other vitamins or a potion, but from pursuing a wholesome lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle means following a nutrient-filled moderate calorie diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains (many are good sources of vitamin E), not smoking, exercising regularly, drinking moderately, participating in risky behaviors and maintaining a normal body weight. Following this approach will be your best chance for leading a long and healthy life.