Is Vitamin E Beneficial?
Whether or not vitamin E should be taken or avoided is a continuing discussion. From what I see, there is no clear answer. Below I have listed three articles, one a study and two news articles reporting studies, that report negatively on the effects of vitamin E.
Vitamins E and C in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men: The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Trial
This study found no long term benefits to vitamin C or E in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
This AARP newsletter references research showing that 400 I.U. of vitamin E increased the chance of prostate cancer.
This article from Yahoo news discusses a Japanese study showing vitamin E increased the rate of osteoporosis in mice.
Are Vitamins Useless?
In my last post – Are Vitamins Useless? – I discussed whether or not selling a product like vitamins whose main effect seems to some authorities as being nothing more than a placebo is ethical. My primary interest was in the business ethics implications. I freely admit that it is obvious that well supported arguments can be made for and against vitamins. There are countless studies on the subject.
However, supplements are a 12 billion dollar a year industry. They sponsor research and buy enormous ad time and quantity. There is little incentive to study from the opposite angle and no money at all in any commercial sense in opposing the sales. If this were a sponsored site with paid advertising, it might well have been a subject I would have been advised to avoid.
Under these circumstances, I am going to lean toward the skeptics. When there is an incredible amount of profit to be realized, I become suspicious. I am also well aware that selling a good and effective product is difficult, and by implication a useless and ineffective product is much easier to generate a profit from as long as you can keep the science confused and governmental regulators at a safe distance.
None of these products should be on the market without proof of their usefulness, their safety and their contents. The very sad tale of the young man dead of a caffeine overdose is a case in point.
Taking supplements is dangerous. You can overdose many vitamins with health effects ranging from discomfort to death. But at least vitamins have a long track record (however varied). The other supplements can be placed on the market without pre-clearance by any agency. Generally speaking, if they don’t cause harm, they don’t get investigated. So, how do you tell which one works and which one doesn’t? You could use yourself or your family as guinea pigs, and hope you can reason out the placebo effect. And since there are thousands of these product, it will take you several lifetimes and careful record keeping to come to some conclusions – although your sample size is too small to count as scientific evidence.
We should not be buying products based on the chance that the seller is telling us the truth about its contents and effects. We should buy products where there is some proof offered of usefulness and safety.
Vitamins and other supplements should be pre-cleared by the Food and Drug Administration before they can be sold.