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Vitamin E Supplements May Weaken Bones

Last updated:

March 05, 2012
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Although vitamin E is usually considered a great source of antioxidants, it might also thin your bones if taken in high doses, say Japanese scientists in a new study published in Nature Medicine.

Researchers genetically modified mice to ensure low levels of vitamin E in their blood. Those mice grew thicker bones than normal mice.

Researchers aren't entirely sure why that's true, but they think it may have something to do with a process called bone remodeling. In this process, which is constant and beneficial, bone cells called osteoblasts secrete new bone while bone cells called osteoclasts reabsorb old bone. Normal adult bone cells replace about 10 percent of the skeleton every year. But osteoporosis occurs when osteoblasts slow down and bone is reabsorbed faster than the osteoblasts can build it.

In the Japanese study, researchers found that low levels of vitamin E caused the opposite effect -- the osteoclasts slowed down, letting the osteoblasts build more bone than the osteoclasts could reabsorb it. When the modified mice were given vitamin E supplements, their bones became less dense.

Researchers also gave normal mice vitamin E supplements similar to the dose a person would take, and saw a 20 percent drop in bone density within eight weeks.

That's not to say you should avoid nuts, green leafy vegetables, and other natural sources of vitamin E, experts say. Those foods are still healthy, and vitamin E deficiency can cause other serious problems. But the study suggests that too much vitamin E -- the amount you'd get from supplements instead of just your normal diet -- can weaken your bones. That's bad news for the more than one in ten adults who take a daily vitamin E supplement, according to The Daily Mail.

Talk to your doctor if he or she has you taking a vitamin E supplement -- and especially talk to your doctor if he or she doesn't know you're taking a vitamin E supplement. You may be able to get your antioxidants in a more bone-friendly way.

Want to do more to keep your bones healthy and strong? Consider adding more of these ten foods to your diet.