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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Moderation is Key for Vita-E

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on research that suggests too much vitamin E might be bad for your health.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: move over, Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon, for a new breed of real life detective stories, starting with an EPA cop and the cyanide canary. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: People typically take vitamins to improve their health. But when it comes to the popular supplement vitamin E, a group of researchers have found that too much of a good thing might be bad. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University reviewed a number of clinical trials into the effects of vitamin E. What they found is that people taking more than 400 international units of the supplement every day had higher rates of mortality than those taking a lesser dose, or none at all. An international unit is roughly equivalent to a milligram.

Previous studies suggested that vitamin E could help prevent ailments such as heart disease and cancer. But the current study posted this week on the Annals of Internal Medicine web site finds that such high doses of the supplement might actually encourage the onset of disease. Scientists say high doses of Vitamin E may act as a “pro-oxidant” in the body and can damage proteins, DNA, and other health-regulating functions. This could leave people more susceptible to illness.

Based on the study’s findings, researchers advise people to avoid high doses of vitamin E until more is research is competed. That’s this week’s Environmental Health Note, I’m Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

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