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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
April 2012

Vitamin E Supplements May Not Lower Risk for Heart Failure

A new study suggests that vitamin E supplementation may not reduce the risk for heart failure in women.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Vitamin E supplements are available in natural or synthetic forms. The natural forms are usually labeled with the letter "d" (for example, d-gamma-tocopherol), whereas synthetic forms are labeled "dl" (for example, dl-alpha-tocopherol).

Vitamin E has been proposed for the prevention or treatment of numerous health conditions, often based on its antioxidant properties. However, aside from the treatment of vitamin E deficiency (which is rare), there are a lack of clearly proven medicinal uses of vitamin E supplementation beyond the recommended daily allowance. There is ongoing research on its use in numerous diseases, particularly in cancer and heart disease.

In a new study, researchers evaluated the effects of vitamin E supplementation on heart failure risk using data on 39,815 women from the Women's Health Study. The women in the Women's Health Study were healthy and at least 45 years-old at the start of the study. Each woman was randomly assigned to receive 600 international units of vitamin E or placebo every other day.

Over an average follow-up period of 10.2 years, the researchers identified 220 cases of heart failure. The authors found that vitamin E supplementation was not significantly linked to a reduced risk for heart failure. When the data was adjusted for other risk factors, the authors noted that a significant link was still lacking.

The authors concluded that vitamin E supplementation may not reduce the risk for heart failure in women. Further research is necessary.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body and/or unable to prevent blood from accumulating, or "backing up," into the lungs.

In most cases, heart failure is a process that occurs over time, when an underlying condition damages the heart or makes it work too hard, weakening the organ. Health conditions that may lead to heart failure include: coronary artery disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) or arrhythmias.

Many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential to reduce the risk for various heart conditions. Extracts of the leaves and flowers of hawthorn have been reported as effective in the treatment of mild-to-moderate congestive heart failure, improving exercise capacity and reducing symptoms of cardiac insufficiency. However, whether hawthorn is as effective as drugs considered standard-of-care for heart failure is unclear, as is the effect of the combined use of hawthorn with these drugs. Nonetheless, hawthorn is a potentially beneficial treatment for patients who cannot take prescription drugs and may offer additive benefits to established therapies. Further study of these issues is warranted.

For more information about integrative therapies for heart failure, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about vitamin E, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

To comment on this story, please visit Natural Standard's blog.


  1. Chae CU, Albert CM, Moorthy MV, et al. Vitamin e supplementation and the risk of heart failure in women. Circ Heart Fail. 2012 Mar 1;5(2):176-82. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright 2013 Natural Standard Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited.