Q: I understand that Vitamin E has many benefits, including reducing heart disease and staving off Alzheimers. Is that correct? How much should I take daily?
A: As we learn more about Vitamin E, the benefits of supplementation seem less and less. The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E (in other words, the basic required amount) is 20 IU (international units). At one point higher doses were recommended, such as 400 IU or 800 IU, to prevent heart disease and Alzheimers. The original evidence was mostly inference from laboratory work. When the HOPE study was published in 2000, it carefully tested the role of high-dose Vitamin E in preventing heart disease — unfortunately, there was no benefit. Subsequent randomized studies looking at Alzheimers and other forms of mental deterioration have not really supported the case that supplementation makes much difference. There are even some down sides to too much Vitamin E, including increases in certain kinds of cancers. So the short answer is, eat healthy food including lots of vegetables. If you don’t, a simple, standard multivitamin (in an FDA-designated formulation called “essential multivitamins”) will give you the requisite 20 IU and you will be as fine as we know how to make you.