Vitamin E has gotten a raw deal over the past few years. Before its reputation got tarnished by some particularly shoddy research done at Johns Hopkins University, this essential nutrient was heralded as a powerful antioxidant that can help you ward off free radical damage and all of the health consequences that come along with it, including Alzheimer's, cancer, and heart disease. Then, in 2004, everywhere you turned you saw headlines warning you of certain death -- literally -- if you took "large" doses of the vitamin.
Now, though, a new study done at Vanderbilt University claims that not only will large doses of vitamin E NOT increase your risk of death (as the Hopkins study suggested), but that you may actually need even more than those so-called risky doses to reap its antioxidant benefits.
The researchers studied the effects of various doses of vitamin E on levels of a substance called F2-isoprostanes, which is a marker of the damage to cell membranes caused by free radicals, in people with high cholesterol and oxidative stress levels. The found that vitamin E didn't significantly lower F2-isoprostanes levels until doses reached at least 1,600 IU per day. But the best results occurred from an even higher dose -- 3,200 IU per day. At this dose, levels of F2-isoprostanes were 49 percent lower than those in the placebo group.
Of course, true to form, the mainstream researchers conducting the study didn't endorse vitamin E supplementation at this or any other dose. In fact, the lead researcher commented "'Even with this massive dose of vitamin E, you only observe a 50 percent reduction in F2-isoprostanes. So in my opinion, vitamin E is not the spiffy antioxidant everybody thinks it is -- it's a pretty poor antioxidant.'"