As published in the journal Nature Medicine, the Keio University team suggest that mice given large doses of vitamin E supplements had lower bone mass. Vitamin E is found naturally in oils, green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli and in almonds and hazelnuts.
While the relationship between nutrients such as vitamin D and bone health are well established, there is far less research which looks into the role of vitamin E.
The research conducted at Keio University in Tokyo looked at what happened when mice had not enough vitamin E, and what happened when they were given supplements. While early studies suggest that consumption of the vitamin had a positive effect on bone mass, the research results showed the reverse to be true, with bone health improving in the deficient mice.
The size and density of bones in the adult body generally depends on a balance between cells which generate new bone, called osteoblasts, and cells which break it down, called osteoclasts.
Similar experiments in rats, including work published in 2010, yielded results opposite to those from the latest study, even suggesting that vitamin E could be useful as a bone-growth promoting treatment in the elderly.
However, Dr. Helen Macdonald, who researches the influence of nutrition on bone health at Aberdeen University, said that there were a small number of studies, including her own, which found negative effects of the vitamin. Despite that, she stresses that there was no reason for people to change their diet to avoid the relatively small amounts of vitamin E contained in it, and it is the supplements that usually involve doses far higher than those contained in a normal diet.