Based upon data from the Framingham Offspring Study based out of Harvard Medical School, it is clear that there is an epidemic Vitamin D deficiency that may increase the risk of heart disease. (A subject for another article; as well as referenced below in prior “updates.”) However, few people are aware that there is also a serious epidemic deficiency of vitamin E. An editorial that accompanied the largest study on vitamin E in medical history (Am J Clin Nutr 2006 Nov;84(5):1200-7) stated 93% of American men and 96% of American women do not obtain the [pathetically low] recommended dietary allowance of 15 IU of vitamin E per day.
It is clear that we should be taking at least 30 to 50 times that level (400 to 1000 IU/day) to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Taking this much vitamin E in the correct form and balance with other vitamins, is both safe and effective; more than the pharmaceutical companies would have you believe. However, it is in the economic interest of pharmaceutical companies to dissuade the public from taking supplements so that they can be on medications which often do little to nothing to reverse disease. Other health practitioners make their living by “educating” others that they can get everything they need from their food alone. The medical research indicates otherwise. The amount of vitamin E, as well as other important vitamins, required to reduce the risk of chronic diseases can only be obtained through supplementation.
Tragically many doctors and the lay person have the misconception that vitamins, such as vitamin E supplementation may be harmful. There seems to be continued misinformation put out in news media and health magazines, regarding the “dangers” of supplementation. Either they are not aware of the medical research, or they are purposefully misleading the public for their own gain. This non-stop attempt to persuade people not to supplement, but to get all their antioxidants from their food alone is at minimum unethical, at worst dangerous. Vitamin E seems to be in these detractors line of fire more than any other nutrient, probably because it is the most common supplement used today. With the thousands of medical studies showing the benefits of supplemental vitamin E, how is it that there is still controversy and confusion? The doses of vitamin E that research has shown to be of benefit can ONLY be obtained through proper supplementation.
Almost weekly a new study about the benefits of vitamin E is published. Almost all show health benefits or potential health benefits. Because vitamin E is one of the most popular supplements, it is only when a medical study or report showing a possible negative effect it is reported by the media, either to make headlines, and/or to scare people away from taking this incredible vitamin. The negative findings regarding vitamin E of a few medical reports have either shown to be excessively biased, restricting other important vitamins that work synergistically with vitamin E, poorly designed, or bearing no cause and effect of vitamin E to a detrimental health impact. The studies of vitamin E that have shown a true potential negative impact are few, but of more importance it has given us clarity regarding the synergistic impact of various vitamins as well as the importance of the formulation of vitamin E.
Vitamins must work together for optimal benefit:
Studies published many years ago showed that for vitamin E to continue to function as an antioxidant within the body, adequate levels of vitamin C must be present to regenerate (donate more electrons) to vitamin E so that it can continue to prevent oxidation of lipids. Any study about vitamin E that restricts the participants from also taking vitamin C is setting up the study to show nothing more than how vitamin E is quickly “used up,” and not regenerated to continuously provide an antioxidant benefit. It tells us nothing about the real benefits that can be obtained from proper supplementation.
The correct formulation of vitamin E is critical:
Vitamin E is a family of nutrients; alpha, delta, and gamma-tocopherols and tocotrienols. There is a difference between the synthetic (petroleum-derived) vitamin E, dl apha-tocopherol , and the natural (food-based ) vitamin E, d alpha-tocopherol. Gamma-tocopherol is a critical form of vitamin E needed to reduce the oxidation of lipids (cholesterol) in conjunction with alpha-tocopherol. (J Am Copll Cardiol. 1999 Oct:34(4):1208-15, Pro Natl Acad Sci USA, 1993 Mar 1:90(5):1771-5) In addition, studies have shown that people who supplement solely with vitamin E in the alpha-tocopherol form are at risk to lower the blood levels of a critical form of vitamin E, gamma-tocopherol. (J Nutr. 2003 Oct:133(10):3137-40; J Nutr.1985 Jun:115(6):807-13 ) The average American’s blood-stream is five times more rich in alpha-tocopherol than gamma-tocopherol, and that difference jumps 20-fold among people who take vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol without gamma tocopherol.
In 2007, a negative study about vitamin E (that lingers as the “justification” for the case against vitamin E) highlights the way the public can be mislead to make some poor decisions about supplementation. (JAMA Feb 27, 2007). This was a flawed study with flawed data that concluded that vitamins A and E “significantly increased the risk of mortality.” This meta-analysis (report) did very little to help us understand the benefits of vitamin E, but showed us just how data, and the public’s opinion, can be manipulated. The authors of this meta-analysis (which is not a study per se, but a review of previous published studies) considered 815 prior studies regarding antioxidants, but included the results of only 68 of these studies for analysis. Some of the studies excluded from their report showed significant benefits and reduction of mortality from taking supplements. Selection bias was glaringly evident. The authors essentially “cherry-picked” the studies they wanted, and ignored others, so that they could come to their desired conclusion: vitamin E can kill you!
The authors were unable to establish any cause and effect between supplementation with vitamin E and an increased risk of death, making this a poorly designed study. The elderly people who died could have just as easily died from accidents, medications, surgery, etc. …who knows? One noted researcher described this report a kin to “doing a cholesterol-lowering study without ever measuring cholesterol levels.” Furthermore, the average duration of the reviewed studies was 2.7 years, so the ridiculous conclusion that the authors wanted the public to believe was that vitamin E could kill you (somehow) in less than 3 years!
The others ignored many studies showing significant benefits derived from supplemental vitamin E. One such study that was ignored by these researchers was the November 10, 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which is the largest study on vitamin E in medical history measuring alpha-tocopherol in male smokers. (Am J Clin Nutr 2006 Nov;84(5):1200-7) This study followed 29,000 patients for over 19 years, and included over 13,000 deaths, …making possible a significant and fair analysis of vitamin E and the risk of death.
This study showed a significant reduction in overall mortality in those patients with the highest blood levels of alpha-tocopherol. Specifically, over a 19-year period men with the highest blood levels of alpha-tocopherol showed the following reduction in causes of death:
” Prostate Cancer 32% Reduction of Death
” Ischemic Stroke 37% Reduction of Death
” Hemorrhagic Stroke 35% Reduction of Death
” Lung Cancer 21% Reduction of Death
” Respiratory Illness 42% Reduction of Death
The authors of this significant and powerful study stated: “As a primary fat-soluble antioxidant that protects lipids from peroxidation, alpha-tocopherol is able to scavenge mutagenic free radicals and inhibit the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol, and the abilities have important implications for the prevention of carcinogenesis and atherosclerosis ….alpha-tocopherol also has several important functions that are independent of its antioxidant activity, including modulation of gene expression, enhancements of immune responses , an suppression of tumor angiogenesis.”
The researchers further elaborated that although the patients who enjoyed the greatest health benefits had higher blood levels of alpha-tocopherol, these same subjects also had the highest levels of gamma-tocopherol, meaning that these people were taking the natural formulation of vitamin E, not dl-alpha-tocopherol without gamma-tocopherol and the tocotrienols. This study, and other significant studies are ignored by the media, and obviously by doctors who are continually visited and educated by pharmaceutical companies.
Certainly, there are tens of thousands of studies reporting the benefits of various nutritional supplements. They are both safe and effective. If doctors and the public were simply made aware of the poorly designed analyses that denigrate vitamin E supplementation, and the significant studies about the benefits of taking vitamin E, in the form of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol (along with delta-tocopherol and the mixed tocotrienols) along with vitamin C and vitamin K, which replenishes the antioxidant abilities of vitamin E, then I believe that not only would people need less medication and reduce the economic crisis in the health care industry, but more importantly people could enjoy the true health and happiness that can be obtained by eating right, exercise, and proper supplementation with a full spectrum of quality vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin E, in the natural form (as described above), appears to be safe up to at least 2000 IU per day. I personally take 800 IU per day of the full spectrum of vitamin E. When I was in medical practice, I recommended at least that much (if not up to 1200 IU of vitamin E) to patients with diabetes. The natural form of vitamin E, along with co-enzyme Q10, the red grape extract (grape seed extract and resveratrol) and a full spectrum of other antioxidants (quercetin, alpha lipoic acid, turmeric extract, olive extract, green tea extract, etc.), vitamins (B, C, D, and K), and minerals in the chelated form, all contribute to safely and significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, lung diseases, and almost every other chronic degenerative disease, as well as slow the aging process, all without the side-effects of drugs.