Contrary to popular belief, vitamin E supplements appear to provide little benefit to health and may even cause harm, according to researchers at the 39th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention held last week in Orlando, Florida.
They believe vitamin E and most other nutrients should be consumed via a healthy, balanced diet.
Cardiovascular disease is associated with a gradual deposition of fatty plaques on artery walls. This plaque forms through the oxidation in the blood of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Specific nutrients, called antioxidants, are thought to inhibit this oxidative process and protect against heart disease.
Researchers examined levels of intake of four antioxidants -- vitamins E and C, beta carotene, and folic acid -- in a group of 54 postmenopausal women. They then compared rates of LDL oxidation in blood samples taken from each of the subjects.
The investigators found that women whose vitamin E source was dietary displayed significant reductions in LDL oxidation.
However, women who took in vitamin E via supplements actually increased their oxidation levels. The more they took in, the worse their LDL oxidation.
She explained that the vitamin E found in supplements comes in the form of alpha-tocopherol, while the vitamin E in food is manifested as a different compound, gamma-tocopherol.
Among supplement users, alpha-tocopherol displaces the gamma-tocopherol in our tissues, so that now all you've got is alpha-tocopherol instead of gamma-tocopherol, and it may be the gamma-tocopherol that's protective.
Nuts, monounsaturated vegetable oils, whole grains, and wheat germ are the best dietary sources of vitamin E, according to experts. According to the Michigan study, women who obtained the highest amounts of vitamin E from their diets also displayed the lowest amounts of LDL oxidation.
You probably can't get too much vitamin E in food.
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
As mentioned above, natural sources of vitamins are usually superior. This study is not yet published so it is hard to determine any flaws in it. However, I believe the premise if valid.
I suspect the reason that the supplemental vitamin E did not help is that is was synthetic and only the alpha tocopherol. I fully believe that one of the best sources of vitamin E is Unique Vitamin E which has all the various tocopherols in it, including the gamma portion.
It is also the highest quality grade available. Grace is the company that produces it and that is their ONLY product.
I suspect that higher doses of vitamin E are probably unnecessary and would be reluctant to recommend doses beyond 400 IU, despite what Grace states in their materials.
Another down side of vitamin E supplementation is individuals who have a large amount of long chain fatty acids (carbons greater than 20) usually have some type of acquired metabolic defect in taking vitamin E.
This will actually make them worse as the vitamin E is a potent inhibitor of beta oxidation of long chain fats.