Japanese scientists say they have found a link between consumption of vitamin E and the degenerative bone condition osteoporosis, in a study likely to shed new light on the use of supplements.
Researchers found that giving mice increased doses of the vitamin to a level similar to that found in supplements caused the animals' bones to thin.
The mice developed osteoporosis after eight weeks on the diet, which had levels of vitamin E significantly higher than those found in a mouse's natural diet, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The team, led by Shu Takeda of Keio University, said vitamin E stimulates the generation of bone-degrading cells, which normally work with bone-forming cells to maintain bone strength.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. It often affects older people, particularly women, who may become more prone to bone fractures.
Vitamin E is found naturally in various foods including vegetable oil, nuts and some leafy vegetables.
It is also a popular health supplement as an antioxidant, and is widely believed to enhance health and slow problems related to ageing.
The study called for greater research into how enhanced levels of vitamin E affect human health.
"It is possible that with the volume (of vitamin E) contained in health supplements, bones may become fragile," Takeda told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
The findings come after researchers found mice that had been genetically modified to be deficient in vitamin E had a high bone density.