I recently read on NPR’s iPhone app (national public radio) about vitamin E being attacked, which focused on prostate cancer risk and links to vitamin e supplementation. However, after reading it, I was emailed the following newsletter from Orthomolecular Medicine News that gives another perspective. It’s very interesting. (You can read more articles here and subscribe to their newsletter here.)
Vitamin E Attacked Again
Of Course. Because It Works.
by Andrew W. Saul
Editor, Orthomolecular Medicine News Service
(OMNS, Oct 14, 2011) The very first Orthomolecular Medicine News Service release was on the clinical benefits of vitamin E. That was seven years ago. (1) In fact, the battle over vitamin E has been going full-tilt for over 60 years. (2)
Well, you can say one thing for vitamin critics: at least they are consistent. Consistently wrong, but consistent.
A recent accusation against vitamin E is that somehow it increases risk of prostate cancer. (3) That is nonsense. If you take close look at the numbers, you will see that “Compared with placebo, the absolute increase in risk of prostate cancer per 1000 person-years was 1.6 for vitamin E, 0.8 for selenium, and 0.4 for the combination.” That works out to be a claimed 0.63% increase risk with vitamin E alone, 0.24% increase in risk with vitamin E and selenium, and 0.15% increase in risk for selenium alone.
Note the decimal points: these are very small figures. But more importantly, note that the combination of selenium with vitamin E resulted in a much smaller number of deaths. If vitamin E were really the problem, vitamin E with selenium would have been a worse problem. Selenium recharges vitamin E, recycling it and effectively rendering it more potent. Something is wrong here, and it isn’t the vitamin E. Indeed, a higher dose of vitamin E might work as well as E with selenium, and be more protective.
And, in fact, this study did show that supplementation was beneficial. Vitamin E and selenium reduced risk of all-cause mortality by about 0.2%., and also reduced the risk of serious cardiovascular events by 0.3%. Vitamin E reduced risk of serious cardiovascular events by 0.7%. But what you were told, and just about all you were told, was “Vitamin E causes cancer!”
The oldest political trick in the book is to create doubt, then fear, and then conformity of action. The pharmaceutical industry knows this full well. One does not waste time and money attacking something that does not work. Vitamin E works, and the evidence is abundant.
Specifically in regards to prostate cancer, new research published in the International Journal of Cancerhas shown that gamma-tocotrienol, a cofactor found in natural vitamin E preparations, actually kills prostate cancer stem cells. (4) As you would expect, these are the very cells from which prostate cancer develops. They are or quickly become chemotherapy-resistant. And yet natural vitamin E complex contains the very thing to kill them. Mice given gamma-tocotrienol orally had an astonishing 75% decrease in tumor formation. Gamma-tocotrienol also is effective against existing prostate tumors. (5,6)
- Vitamin E reduces mortality by 24% in persons 71 or older. Even persons who smoke live longer if they take vitamin E. Hemila H, Kaprio J. Age Ageing, 2011. 40(2): 215-220. January 17.http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/content/40/2/215.short
- Taking 300 IU vitamin E per day reduces lung cancer by 61%. (Mahabir S, Schendel K, Dong YQ et al. Dietary alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols in lung cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 2008 Sep 1;123(5):1173-80.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18546288 For further information: Vitamin E prevents lung cancer. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Oct 29, 2008. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n18.shtml
- Vitamin E is an effective treatment for atherosclerosis. Drs. Wilfrid and Evan Shute knew this half a century ago. (1) In 1995, JAMA published research that confirmed it, saying: “Subjects with supplementary vitamin E intake of 100 IU per day or greater demonstrated less coronary artery lesion progression than did subjects with supplementary vitamin E intake less than 100 IU per day.” (Hodis HN, Mack WJ, LaBree L et al. Serial coronary angiographic evidence that antioxidant vitamin intake reduces progression of coronary artery atherosclerosis. JAMA, 1995. 273:1849-1854.) http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/273/23/1849.short
- 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E daily reduces risk of heart attack by 77%. (Stephens NG et al. Randomized controlled trial of vitamin E in patients with coronary artery disease: Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS). Lancet, March 23, 1996; 347:781-786.)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8622332
- Increasing vitamin E with supplements prevents COPD [Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis] (Agler AH et al. Randomized vitamin E supplementation and risk of chronic lung disease (CLD) in the Women’s Health Study. American Thoracic Society 2010 International Conference, May 18, 2010.) Summary athttp://www.thoracic.org/newsroom/press-releases/conference/articles/2010/vitamine-e.pdf
- 800 IU vitamin E per day is a successful treatment for fatty liver disease. (Sanyal AJ, Chalasani N, Kowdley KV et al. Pioglitazone, vitamin E, or placebo for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. N Engl J Med. 2010 May 6;362(18):1675-85.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20427778
- Alzheimer’s patients who take 2,000 IU of vitamin E per day live longer. (Pavlik VN, Doody RS, Rountree SD, Darby EJ. Vitamin E use is associated with improved survival in an Alzheimer’s disease cohort. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2009;28(6):536-40.) Summary athttp://www.associatedcontent.com/article/719537/alzheimers_patients_who_take_vitamin.html?cat=5See also: Grundman M. Vitamin E and Alzheimer disease: the basis for additional clinical trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Feb;71(2):630S-636S. Free access to full text athttp://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/71/2/630s )
- 400 IU of Vitamin E per day reduces epileptic seizures in children by more than 60%. (Ogunmekan AO, Hwang PA. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of D-alpha-tocopheryl acetate [vitamin E], as add-on therapy, for epilepsy in children. Epilepsia. 1989 Jan-Feb; 30(1):84-9.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2643513
- Vitamin E supplements help prevent amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This important finding is the result of a 10-year-plus Harvard study of over a million persons. (Wang H, O’Reilly EJ, Weisskopf MG, et al. Vitamin E intake and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a pooled analysis of data from 5 prospective cohort studies. Am. J. Epidemiol, 2011. 173 (6): 595-602. March 15) http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/173/6/595.short
- Vitamin E is more effective than a prescription drug in treating chronic liver disease(nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). Said the authors: “The good news is that this study showed that cheap and readily available vitamin E can help many of those with this condition.” Sanyal AJ, Chalasani N, Kowdley KV et al. Pioglitazone, vitamin E, or placebo for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. N Engl J Med. 2010 May 6;362(18):1675-85.http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0907929
What Kind of Vitamin E?
Which work best: natural or synthetic vitamins? The general debate might not end anytime soon. However, with vitamin E, we already know. The best E is the most natural form, generally called “mixed natural tocopherols and tocotrienols.” This is very different from the synthetic form, DL-alpha tocopherol. In choosing a vitamin E supplement, you should carefully read the label… the entire label. It is remarkable how many natural-looking brown bottles with natural-sounding brand names contain a synthetic vitamin. And no, we do not make brand recommendations. Furthermore, OMNS has no commercial affiliations or funding.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with some authors of the negative vitamin E paper. (3) You will not see this in the abstract at the JAMA website, of course, but if you read the entire paper, and get to the very last page (1556), you’ll find the “Conflict of Interest” section. Here you will discover that a number of the study authors have received money from pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, AstraZeneca, Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Amgen, Firmagon, and Novartis. In terms of cash, these are some of the largest corporations on the planet.
Well how about that: a “vitamins are dangerous” article, in one of the most popular medical journals, with lots of media hype . . . and the pharmaceutical industry’s fingerprints all over it.
So How Much Vitamin E?
More than the RDA, and that’s for certain. A common dosage range for vitamin E is between 200 and 800 IU/day. Some orthomolecular physicians advocate substantially more than that. The studies cited above will give you a ballpark idea. However, this is an individual matter for you and your practitioner to work out. Your own reading and research, before you go to your doctor, will help you determine optimal intake. If your doctor quotes a negative vitamin study, then haul out the positive ones. You may start with this article. There are more links to more information at http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v06n09.shtml andhttp://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v06n25.shtml
And as for the old saw argument that supplement-users are supposedly dying like flies, consider this: Over 200 million Americans take vitamin supplements. So where are the bodies? Well, there aren’t any. There has not been a single death from vitamins in 27 years. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n05.shtml . Share that with your doctor as well. And with the news media.
(Andrew W. Saul has been an orthomolecular medical writer and lecturer for 35 years. He received the Outstanding Health Freedom Activist Award from Citizen’s for Health, and is the winner of three Empire State teacher fellowships. Saul is author or coauthor of 10 books, four of which are with Abram Hoffer, M.D..)
2. Saul AW. Vitamin E: A cure in search of recognition. J Orthomolecular Med, 2003. Vol 18, No 3 and 4, p 205-212. Free download at http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/2003/pdf/2003-v18n0304-p205.pdfor html at http://www.doctoryourself.com/evitamin.htm . See also: Saul AW. Review of The vitamin E story, by Evan Shute. J Orthomolecular Med, 2002. Volume 17, Number 3, Third Quarter, p 179-181.http://www.doctoryourself.com/estory.htm
3. Klein EA, Thompson Jr, IM, Tangen CM et al. JAMA. 2011;306(14):1549-1556.
http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/306/14/1549 Also, as an example of many media spins:
4. Sze Ue Luk1, Wei Ney Yap, Yung-Tuen Chiu et al. Gamma-tocotrienol as an effective agent in targeting prostate cancer stem cell-like population. International Journal of Cancer, 2011. Vol 128, No 9, p 2182-2191. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.25546/abstract
5. Nesaretnam K, Teoh HK, Selvaduray KR, Bruno RS, Ho E. Modulation of cell growth and apoptosis response in human prostate cancer cells supplemented with tocotrienols. Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol. 2008, 110, 23-31. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejlt.200700068/abstract
6. Conte C, Floridi A, Aisa C et al. Gamma-tocotrienol metabolism and antiproliferative effect in prostate cancer cells. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2004. 1031: 391-4.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15753178?dopt=AbstractPlus
Also of Interest:
Vitamin E research ignored by major news media. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, May 25, 2010http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v06n19.shtml
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