Is Vitamin E Beneficial Or Harmful? Cutting Through The Clutter Of Different Scientific Opinions
Numerous reports have recently appeared in both the lay and medical press questioning the value of vitamin E supplementation and suggesting that there are risks associated with its use even at doses previously thought to have been "safe". What do we do with the hundreds of studies and extensive clinical research that has been published in the medical literature suggesting benefit in cardiovascular disease, alzheimers, diabetes and other degenerative diseases? A search of the National Library of Medicine yields over 25,000 citations, many funded or sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other prestigious medical and scientific organizations.
A recent analysis of the same data by Stampfer et al470 revealed that the protective effect of vitamin E was attributable to supplemental vitamin E at pharmacological levels exceeding 100 IU per day. Since dietary intakes of alpha tocopherol in the United States typically range from 4 to 16 IU per day, the former level of intake would be extremely difficult to achieve from diet alone.804 Those women who took 100 mg. vitamin E supplements (in addition to 15mg of beta carotene daily) experienced a 36% reduction in myocardial infarction, and women with the highest dietary vitamin E intake, and who consumed vitamin E supplements daily for two years, had a 41% reduction in risk (multivariant risk 0.59).
Additionally, this is in agreement with recommendations of Denton Harmon, M.D. Ph.D., the father of the Free-Radical Theory of Aging (D. Harmon, J. Gerontol. 11, 298-300 (1956).) who recommends 400 IU of vitamin E daily (Life Extension Magazine, Interview, January 1998).
DISCUSSION: What is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin that is involved in the metabolism of all cells. Vitamin E protects vitamin A and essential fatty acids from oxidation in the body cells and prevents breakdown of body tissues. Vitamin E is widely accepted to be the primary physiological antioxidant in man. 472,488,844,845,846
Vitamin E exists in eight different forms, each with its own biological activity and functional use in the body(Traber MG and Packer L. Vitamin E: Beyond antioxidant function. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;62:1501S-9S). Alpha-tocopherol is the name of the most active form of vitamin E in humans. It is also a powerful biological antioxidant (Traber MG. Vitamin E. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC, ed. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th ed. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999:347-62). Vitamin E in supplements is usually sold as alpha-tocopheryl acetate, a form that protects its ability to function as an antioxidant. The synthetic form is labeled "D, L" while the natural form is labeled "D". The synthetic form is only half as active as the natural form (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2004. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16-1).
Epidemiology Regarding Vitamin E:
Excessive alcohol consumption may have an adverse effect on serum antioxidant levels which is independent of nutritional status. Excessive consumption of alcohol has been associated with low serum vitamin E levels,499,889 malondialdehyde (MDA) markers of oxidative stress and free radical activity.889 Numerous studies have shown that alcoholics have lower serum beta carotene,901 alpha tocopherol,889 selenium,889 and ascorbic acid889 concentrations than control subjects who drink moderately.
Supporting the hypothesis that heme iron acts as a pro-oxidant in vivo, and validating previous clinical research, Ascherio et al823 found that a high intake of antioxidant vitamin E may prevent the adverse cardiovascular effects of excess heme iron consumption,830,831,832,833 and concluded that oxidative stress resulting from smoking837 and hyperglycemia associated with diabetes834,835,836 may enhance it.
Good Sources of Vitamin E
Dr. Petrosino received his Baccalaureate degree from Penn State University in 1975, pursued his Masters degree with honors at Penn State in 1978, and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Doctorate in Nutrition from Lasalle University (Mandeville) in 1995. His doctoral dissertation examined the effects of race and poverty on cardiovascular health. He was an Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at LaSalle University (1995-1999); a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Committee on Cardiovascular Disease; a Professional Member and Charter Member of the American Heart Association Scientific Council on Epidemiology and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease; a Professional Member and Charter Member of the American Heart Association Scientific Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism; a Professional Member of the American Heart Association Interdisciplinary Working Group on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology; an Allied Health Care Practitioner member of the....
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