There was much ado regarding a large-scale men’s health study a couple years ago that proclaimed men did not get any benefit whatsoever from vitamin E alone; nay, in fact, vitamin E, declared the researchers, “significantly increased the risk of prostate cancer among healthy men.”
This particular study was part of what’s known as the SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial), which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This study analyzed 34,887 men who were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups: 8,752 took selenium; 8,737, vitamin E; 8,702, took a combination of both, and 8,696 were given placebo. At approximately seven years follow up there was no statistically significant increase in prostate cancer for selenium, selenium + vitamin E, or placebo. However, there was a 17% increased risk of prostate cancer in healthy men randomized to supplement with 400 IU vitamin E alone.
But here’s the real deal, according to the experts at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an ethical trade association based in Washington DC. The study’s most significant flaw is that it examined vitamin E in complete isolation — against prostate cancer. Cancer of any type is a multi-factorial disease (meaning it has multiple causations, often in combination) — and in a study of this magnitude, it is quite the stretch to mislead the public into thinking that 400 IU vitamin E may be a cause of prostate cancer.
Using the study findings, it does appear that when combined with the mineral selenium, vitamin E may have prostate-nourishment benefits, meaning, it helps supports normal function and structure of the prostate gland — which is separate from preventing prostate cancer.
Vitamin E is an essential vitamin required for all functions of the body. According to CRN, “It is fairly common for people not to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (22.4 IU or 15 mg) and it is particularly difficult for people to meet the RDA from food alone without exceeding a reasonable caloric intake. Men should be aware of their vitamin E intake, but typical doses commonly found in multivitamins should not be a concern. There are also many single vitamin E supplements sold that are far below the 400 IU that the researchers identified as a concern”