Vitamin E Supplements Linked to Stroke

People who take Vitamin E supplements to prevent stroke may be doing themselves more harm than good. Recent research suggests that while taking Vitamin E may offer a smidge more protection from ischemic strokes, it actually significantly increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke-a particularly deadly type of stroke.

Scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston looked at data from nine separate trials totaling almost 119,000 participants. In each of these trials, about half of the participants received Vitamin E supplements and half received placebos.

In one analysis, out of the more than 45,000 patients taking Vitamin E, 884 had an ischemic stroke compared with 983 of an equal number of patients taking just the placebo. This is a 10 percent reduction in risk. Ischemic stroke, by far the most common type of stroke, occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed.

But in another analysis, 223 participants out of more than 50,000 experienced a hemorrhagic stroke after taking Vitamin E, compared with just 183 participants out of 50,000 who were given a placebo. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. While less common than ischemic stroke, it can be far more deadly because of the speed with which it occurs and the amount of damage it can do in a short time.

The researchers stress that the risk of stroke from taking Vitamin E supplements is small, and translates into one more hemorrhagic stroke out of every 1,250 people taking it. Nevertheless, they advise against using Vitamin E supplements and instead recommend that people lower their risk of stroke via other preventative measures such as maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising, eating a nutritious diet, and avoiding cigarette smoke.

Stroke is the third largest cause of death in this country, claiming more than 137,000 victims each year. Slightly more women than men experience strokes, but stroke tends to be deadlier for men. There are more than 6.4 million stroke survivors alive today.


Brigham and Women's Hospital,

American Heart Association,