Vitamin E & Heart Disease
Visualized: Those who take a lot of vitamin E tend to be quite healthy, according to several studies. They have fewer heart attacks and are less likely to die from heart disease.
Professionally Reviewed by Charles Li, MD

TL;DR

Vitamin E & Heart Disease
1. Vitamin E & Health
Those who take a lot of vitamin E tend to be quite healthy, according to several studies. They have fewer heart attacks and are less likely to die from heart disease.
2. Supplements Might Not Work
However, when people are randomly assigned to take Vitamin E supplements, they may not necessarily have better outcomes when it comes to heart disease and heart attacks.
3. Lifestyle Matters
This difference suggests that Diet and Lifestyle may be the more important factors in this debate. It's likely that those who take a lot of vitamin E also tend to take good care of their health.
The Basics
Key Facts
Vitamin E
The Basics
Key Facts
  • Type
    Fat Soluble
  • Other Names
    α-tocopherol
  • Sources
    Diet, Liver
Appearance
Uses:

Antioxidant

Inflammation

Immunity

Vitamin E
Key Facts
Amount per day

15mg

Source: Institute of Medicine

Types of Foods

Nuts & Seeds

Sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and almonds

Deficiency

Rare in healthy individuals

Study 1

Vitamin E & Heart Disease Correlation
An early study found that those who took more Vitamin E had less heart disease.

Nurses who chose to take Vitamin E also tended to have a lower risk of heart disease. (0.66 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.50 to 0.87) after adjustment for age and smoking). In the long run, their risk was even lower: RR= "0.59 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.38 to 0.91) after adjustment for age, smoking status, risk factors for coronary disease, and use of other antioxidant nutrients"

Our Take
This study showed an interesting correlation. However, later clinical trials have suggested that Vitamin E may not be necessarily causing the observed benefit.

Data Source

"Although these prospective data do not prove a cause-and-effect relation, they suggest that among middle-aged women the use of vitamin E supplements is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease."

Source: Vitamin E Consumption and the Risk of Coronary Disease in Women

Study 2

Vitamin E Clinical Trial for Heart Disease
Clinical trials of Vitamin E have shown mixed results. One of the highest quality trials, shown below, demonstrated no benefits for high risk patients.
vitamin E clinical trial

The study above shows that in a randomized double-blind clinical trial, the gold standard of medical research, Vitamin E may not have a benefit for heart disease. Those who were assigned to take Vitamin E had the same number of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease as those who were assigned to take placebo, a control.

Our Take
While this trial doesn't rule out benefits, it does provide strong evidence that much of the benefit seen for Vitamin E may be due to correlation rather than causation. It's likely that those who take Vitamin E tend to have fewer heart attacks because they also choose to live healthier lifestyles.

Data Source

"The data from this large trial indicated that 600 IU of natural-source vitamin E taken every other day provided no overall benefit for major cardiovascular events or cancer, did not affect total mortality, and decreased cardiovascular mortality in healthy women. These data do not support recommending vitamin E supplementation for cardiovascular disease or cancer prevention among healthy women."

Source: Vitamin E in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer

Key Takeaways

Vitamin E & Heart Disease
Final Thoughts
When it comes to vitamin E and heart attacks, the evidence is mixed. Those who take vitamin E regularly tend to have better health. But, when people are randomly assigned to take it, they don't necessarily do better. The key here is to eat healthy, exercise, and focus on lifestyle rather than supplements.

Vitamin E

Key Functions
One of the key functions of vitamin E is to serve as an antioxidant.
Key Facts
Examples
Antioxidants
Key Facts
How they work

Antioxidants prevent cell damage by counteracting free radicals.

Effect on Disease

Research on Antioxidants and disease prevention has shown mixed results.

Common Sources

Chocolate

Berries & Fruit

Coffee

Antioxidants
Examples
beta-carotene

Your body makes vitamin A with beta-carotene, commonly found in carrots.

Vitamin C

Found in all sorts of fruits, Vitamin C is a very commonly consumed antioxidant.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E can be found in nuts and seeds.

More Information

Vitamin E

What is Vitamin E?

"Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in many foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun."

How common is Vitamin E Deficiency?

"Vitamin E deficiency is rare. In developed countries, vitamin E deficiency is seen only in certain conditions, such as liver disease or cystic fibrosis."

More Info

Heart Disease

What is Heart Disease?

"The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack."

How does diet affect heart disease?

"Fruits and vegetables are part of a heart-healthy diet. They are good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Most are low in fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol...Include whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and starchy vegetables (such as peas, potatoes, corn, winter squash, and lima beans). These foods are high in the B vitamins, iron, and fiber. "