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Antioxidants such as vitamin E act to protect cells against the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of the body's metabolism. Free radicals can cause cell damage that may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants recycle vitamin E end-products back into effective suppressors of free radicals.


Vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease. Researchers are fairly certain that oxidative modification of LDL-cholesterol (sometimes called "bad" cholesterol) promotes blockages in coronary arteries that may lead to atherosclerosis and heart attacks. Vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease by limiting the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol. Vitamin E also may help prevent the formation of blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack. Observational studies have associated lower rates of heart disease with higher vitamin E intake.

Antioxidants such as vitamin E help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals, which may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer. Vitamin E also may block the formation of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens formed in the stomach from nitrites consumed in the diet. It also may protect against the development of cancers by enhancing immune function.Vitamin E acts as an effective free radical scavenger and can lower the incidence of lung cancer in smokers.

A trial sponsored by the National Eye Institutes showed that people at high risk of developing advanced stages of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) lowered their risk by about 25 percent when treated for 5 years with a high-dose combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc. Studies on vitamin E alone have been contradictory at best, with some showing no association between levels of vitamin E intake and progression of AMD.

A large new study suggests vitamin E may help prevent death from cancer and heart disease in middle-aged men who smoke, contradicting the findings of some previous studies on the subject.

In a study of 29,092 Finnish men in their 50s and 60s who were smokers, those with the highest concentrations of the vitamin E in their blood at the study's outset were the least likely to die during the follow-up period, which lasted up to 19 years, Dr. Margaret E. Wright of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and colleagues report.

There are a number of mechanisms by which vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, might promote health, Wright and her team note in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For example, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, while it also boosts immune system function and prevents tumor blood vessel growth.

But studies investigating blood levels of vitamin E and mortality, as well as the effects of taking supplements of the vitamin, have had conflicting results.

In the current study, Wright and her colleagues compared men's levels of alpha tocopherol at the beginning of the study, before they had begun taking the supplements, with their mortality over the course of the study's follow-up period.

Men with the highest levels of vitamin E in their blood were 18 percent less likely to die than those with the lowest levels, the researchers found. They also had a 21-percent lower risk of death from cancer, a 19-percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, and a 30-percent lower risk of death from other causes.

The optimum concentration appeared to be 13 to 14 milligrams vitamin E per liter of blood, with higher concentrations offering no additional benefit.

Because trials of vitamin E supplements have shown no effect on mortality, the findings don't suggest that they would be beneficial, but do suggest that people can benefit from getting more vitamin E in their diet through foods.In foods, the most abundant sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils such as palm oil, sunflower, corn, soybean and olive oil. Nuts, sunflower seeds, seabuckthorn berries, and wheat germ are also good sources.

Other sources of vitamin E are whole grains, fish, peanut butter, and green leafy vegetables. Fortified breakfast cereals are also an important source of vitamin E in the United States. Although originally extracted from wheat germ oil, most natural vitamin E supplements are now derived from vegetable oils, usually soybean oil.

The U.S. Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for a 25-year old male for Vitamin E is 15 mg/day. This is approximately 15 IU/day. Specifically, The natural form of alpha-tocopherol: RRR-alpha-tocopherol maintain 1.5 IU/mg.

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