October 11, 2004
The World’s leading experts in vitamin E participated in a congress in New York in the spring which was sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences. The last time such a congress was held was in 1989 and some of the news have now been described in the October issue of the Academy’s scientific magazine.
It is astounding that we are still discussing nature’s purpose of Vitamin E. It can actually be difficult to find obvious deficiency symptoms in humans. However, it is certain that the vitamin is highly important. All higher animals – including fish – produce the protein TTT with the single task of transporting vitamin E in the blood. Natures probably would not have gone to such trouble of making a transport protein for a substance that the body could easily do without.
“When nature has chosen exactly alpha-tocopherol from the thousands of antioxidants in our surroundings, there must be a reason”, declared Angelo Azzi of the University of Bern. Vitamin E slows down the blood platelets when they are about to clog and form blood clots.
This is significant to the tendency of other cells to stick to each other, divide, and to send signals to each other. Furthermore, it increases the production of nitric oxide (NO) which is an important signalling molecule that relaxes the blood vessels and thereby lowers the blood pressure. How can we translate these fundamental abilities into something we can see and feel, though?
The participants at the congress presented results showing that Vitamin E delays Alzheimer’s disease. According to a French study, the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E can prevent the disease from occuring in the first place. The same combination of vitamins also prevents pre-eclampsia. Finally, a randomized trial has shown that vitamin E reduces the frequency of colds in elderly people by 25%.
A constant controversial question is why only a single randomized trial have been able to show that vitamin E prevents coronary thrombosis when there are so many other indications of this effect. The explanation could be that synthetic Vitamin E has often been used instead of natural vitamin E. Synthetic Vitamin E consists of eight different substances of which only a single one is present in nature.
Another reason might be that the Vitamin E has not been supplemented with vitamin C; automatic supplementation with Vitamin C happens in animals because of their ability to produce Vitamin C themselves.
However, the reason might also be that the participants of almost all the studies had been severely atherosclerotic from the start. “Once calcification has damaged an artery, the damage will heal very poorly”, professor Meydani of Tufts University, USA. Vitamin E is probably better at preventing than curing diseases!
Professor Maret Traber from Oregon estimates that 70 – 80% of all adults get less than the recommended 30 mg. of Vitamin E weekly. Her advice is to live healthily and that there is no harm in taking an extra Vitamin E supplement.
The exact reason for its beneficial effect will perhaps not be elucidated for another 15 years.
By: Vitality Council
Hopkin K. New York Academy of Sciences Magazine 2004; October: 4-6.