Vitamin E: The Rest of the Story

Published Online: Friday, November 1, 2002

Vitamins and dietary supplements can be like movie stars. One day they?re up; the next day they?re down. Something like that has happened to vitamin E. Long touted as an antiaging antioxidant that can ward off heart disease, vitamin E may do nothing of the sort.
A new study from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California finds that although vitamin E did reduce the oxidation of low-density lipo-protein cholesterol, that reduction did not translate into a slower progression of the hardening of the arteries that boosts the risk of heart disease.

Veteran antioxidant researchers say that while the study is disappointing, it is not the last word. It is certainly not a reason to throw out your supply of capsules, since the vitamin may help protect against a number of other diseases. On the other hand, you may very well want to replace your current supply, because not all formulations of vitamin E

are created equal. According to the Wall Street Journal (October 16, 2002), ?A growing body of research suggests that the kind of vitamin E most commonly sold in drugstores does not offer some of the most promising health benefits. The bottle most people buy at the pharmacy is usually a type of vitamin E chemically known as alpha-tocopherol. But many scientists now believe that a less commonly available type?one called gamma-tocopherol?is far more beneficial.? The alpha version is easier and cheaper to manufacture. The gamma version is available mainly in health food and vitamin specialty stores.

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