Vitamin E: Heart Disease and Cancer Rates in High-Risk Older Patients
G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
"The major finding of the HOPE trial including the initial trial and trial extension, is the lack of benefit for vitamin E in preventing cancer or major cardiovascular events after a prolonged period of treatment and observation. Furthermore, our studies raise concern about an increased risk of heart failure related to vitamin E."
The above quote made headlines around the world. The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) was an international trial involving 267 centers and 9541 patients that lasted 64 months between December 1993 and April 1999. None of the patients were younger than 55 years old and their mean age was 66. The participants were in a group considered high risk for cardiovascular disease. This was defined as having a history of coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke, or diabetes mellitus. 4761 patients took 400 IU of natural vitamin E daily for the duration of the study. 4780 participants took an identical placebo pill. The HOPE study was extended an additional 49 months from April 1999 until May of 2003. Called the Ongoing Outcomes, it was referred to as HOPE-TOO. 174 of the original 267 centers continued to participate. In the 174 centers, there were 3056 vitamin E patients and 3060 placebo patients left over from the initial HOPE trial. 2025 in the vitamin E group and 1969 in the placebo group agreed to continue the intervention. Please note that this study was double blinded. Neither the researchers nor patients knew who was taking the vitamin E.
Rather than give an opinion, a percentage, or an extrapolation like doubling the risk (see box), I thought that clinicians would prefer to look at the raw data when encountering patients' questions such as "Is vitamin E going to give me heart disease?"
Why I Dislike Hearing "Doubles Your Risk"
Knowing the raw data will give you insight as to how biased a given author is when this study is quoted to support an argument. For example, an author with an antisupplement bias can correctly state that in both the HOPE and HOPE-TOO trials there were more deaths from heart disease in people who took vitamin E than people who took placebos. Conversely, the author with the prosupplement bias can say that in both the HOPE and HOPE-TOO trials there were fewer deaths from cancer in those persons who took vitamin E. Looking at the overall death rates due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and deaths from all causes, it appears that 400 IU of vitamin E is neither the toxic substance that some authors will claim it is, nor is it a panacea for health that other authors will state.
Copyright 2004-2007, G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824