Q: Should I take vitamin E supplements and if so, how much and which ones?
– George from New Orleans
A: Vitamin E forced everyone to accept that a good diet still needs supplements by showing unequivocally that intakes of vitamin E – in amounts far greater than realistically possible from diet alone – lower heart-disease risk, protect the eyes from age-related vision loss, boost the immune system, and possibly help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. How much do you need? A landmark study from Harvard showed that 100IU of vitamin E taken daily for years lowered heart-disease risk by up to 40% in men and women. If you go the diet route, you must eat 3,350 slices of whole wheat bread, more than 6 cups of cashews, 1 cup of almond oil, or 4 cups of wheat germ to meet this minimum amount! Other studies show that 200IU to 400IU lowers heart-disease risk. There doesn’t seem to be much benefit in taking doses any greater than this if you’re healthy and hope only to lower disease risk in the future. What type of vitamin E should you take? Natural vitamin E supplements are best. Natural vitamin E supplements are two times better than synthetic at making it into the tissues and raising blood levels. Look for supplements that contain only d-alpha tocopherol or the new term RRR-alpha, rather than the synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol or all-rac-alpha. If you can’t afford the natural, take a little more of the synthetic to make up for its poorer retention. -Elizabeth Somer