Healthy Women Don't Need Aspirin, Vitamin E
Regular Aspirin or Vitamin E Doesn't Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease in Women
"For us, it is fairly clear from our study that vitamin E has no overall
effect in preventing heart disease and stroke," Lee says. "Vitamin E
had no effect on fatal heart attacks or fatal strokes. The primary effect was
that it reduced sudden death. And sudden death usually occurs because of fatal
problems with heart rhythm. Vitamin E has no affect on heart rhythm."
"This just doesn't tie together with what we know about the effects of
But Maret Traber, PhD, professor of nutrition at Oregon State University's
Linus Pauling Institute, strongly disagrees. Traber, who has studied vitamin E,
says that Lee and colleagues are too quick to dismiss their own positive
findings on vitamin E.
"Data from this study show that in women over 65, the age group most
affected by coronary problems, the death rate from heart disease was cut almost
in half if the women took vitamin E supplements," Traber says in a news
release, "[Lee and colleagues] then conclude that vitamin E supplements
provide no benefit in preventing cardiovascular problems and their use is not
recommended. I find that conclusion inexplicable."
It isn't inexplicable to Rita F. Redberg, MD, MSc, professor of medicine and
director of women's cardiovascular services at the University of California,
Redberg says that in studies in which associations are made rather than
intervention being investigated, vitamin E looked good because of the
"healthy user" effect. That is, people who use vitamin E also tend to
take care of themselves in other ways. In a study where people are assigned a
treatment -- such as the Lee study -- the vitamin doesn't look so good. Yes,
Redberg says, there was that 24% reduction in death from heart disease.
"Usually we think of vitamin E working by reducing the risk of heart
attack -- but there was no such risk reduction in the Lee study," Redberg
says. "And there was no change in overall risk of death. When people are
taking a vitamin, they are trying to live longer, not trying to die of one
cause rather than another."
How to Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease
Fortunately, nearly everyone agrees that there is an excellent way to
prevent cancer and heart disease. But it doesn't come in a pill or in a
capsule, says Eric J. Jacobs, PhD, senior epidemiologist for the American
Cancer Society. Jacobs' editorial accompanies the Cook and Lee studies.
"We believe that we should continue research into agents that can
probably prevent cancer. But we don't realistically think we will find a
substance that reduces this risk in the immediate future," Jacobs tells
WebMD. "And we already have discovered effective methods to prevent cancer,
but are not using them enough. Screening for colon cancer, for example, is
Cook says, "You need to eat a healthy diet, exercise, avoid smoking,
and, for cancer, follow the screening procedures."