Evaluating the Use of Vitamin E Supplementation
Emily M. Ambizas, Danielle C. Ezzo, and Maria Marzella Sulli, Department of Clinical Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Abstract: Objective: Vitamin E has been thought to be beneficial in preventing diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive impairment. Although there was a lack of published trials supporting the use of vitamin E, by 1997 44% of cardiologists reported routine use of antioxidants, specifically vitamin E, and one in four adults reported taking vitamin E supplements. Recently there has been much discussion on the use of vitamin E and its potential negative effects. Current studies fail to show any benefit from vitamin E supplementation in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer or reduction of cognitive decline. There is evidence, however, that daily administration of vitamin E increases the risk of heart failure and/or death. The purpose of this project was threefold. We assessed the use of vitamin E supplementation among the general population and provided education to these patients on the recent new findings about vitamin E. We then evaluated what they will be doing about their vitamin E usage.
Methods: Patients aged 18 years and older were surveyed. Consent to participate was obtained orally. Upon presenting for consultation with a pharmacist or pharmacy intern, patients were asked about their vitamin E usage and were provided with recent information regarding its use. They were then asked what they planned to do with their current vitamin E use.
Results: Currently, a total of 34 patients have completed the survey. Seventy-nine percent of patients surveyed were female. Most patients were age 56-65. Sixteen percent of patients started taking vitamin E within the last year. One-third of patients began supplementing with vitamin E one to five years ago. Twelve percent of patients have been taking vitamin E for more than 10 years. Thirty-five percent of patients are taking 400 I.U.; 2 patients are taking vitamin E in excess of 600 I.U. a day. Almost 40% of patients did not know how much vitamin E they were using a day. Most patients reported “thought it was good for me” as their reason for use. Many patients believed it was “good for my heart.” Most patients reported that it was recommended by their doctors. When provided with the recent findings concerning vitamin E use, a third of patients said they would stop as compared to 44% of patients who were going to speak with their doctor first. When asked who they talk to regarding vitamin, mineral and supplement use, 91% of patients stated their doctor, compared to 3% of patients who stated the pharmacist.
Conclusions/Implications: Most patients were not aware of the new findings concerning the use of vitamin E. They were very receptive to the information, but despite this, they were still more inclined to ask their doctor first. Sadly, most patients reported that their doctor was their primary source of information about vitamins, minerals and supplements and only 1 person cited the pharmacist. Pharmacists need to do more to educate patients about their expertise in supplements.