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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

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Vitamin E intakes for healthy hearts

By Manfred Eggersdorfer

Today’s consumer is increasingly knowledgeable about their health, which has led to a rising interest in the influence of the ingredients in their diet. A recent consumer survey[1] revealed that protection against diseases later in life – particularly cardiovascular conditions – is the leading health concern for adults of working age.

Besides the conventional risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), oxidative stress and inflammation may contribute to an increased risk of CVD. Nutrients are vital in maintaining healthy body functions and this is where vitamin E may play an important role. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and carries an approved health claim in the EU for “contributing to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.[2]” There is growing evidence that increased vitamin E consumption may be linked to lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular condition due to oxidative stress or inflammation.[3],[4]  In spite of this, average daily vitamin E intakes are below recommended levels in 82% of the global population.[5]

In addition to the general recommended intakes, certain at-risk groups require more vitamin E than the average person. A new study[6] by researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has shown that people with metabolic syndrome, a combination of certain characteristics of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, need significantly more vitamin E. The millions of people meeting the criteria for metabolic syndrome are already at a greater risk of developing CVD and type-2 diabetes and require a 30-50% higher intake of vitamin E than an individual in good health. The research, a double-blind, crossover clinical trial, also outlined a flaw with conventional approaches to measuring vitamin E. As the micronutrient is attracted to high cholesterol and fat, vitamin E levels can stay at higher levels in the circulatory system and give the illusion of adequate levels, even though tissues may be deficient. This shows that conventional blood tests may be hiding further vitamin E deficiencies.

Vitamin E is a difficult micronutrient to obtain through diet alone. Vegetable oils are known to be a major dietary source of vitamin E; however, new research has shown oxidative degradation can lead to the amount of α-tocopherol being much lower than initially thought.[7] α-tocopherol is the type of vitamin E with the highest biological activity, making it particularly important to human health.

With vegetable oils an important source of vitamin E, the instability may be a contributing factor to low vitamin E intake across the world. Using higher levels of vitamin E in fortification is necessary to take into account the low stability and ensure that individuals, particularly those with metabolic syndrome, are not deficient. Additionally, vitamin E supplementation may help to increase levels of vitamin E in the body which can support the reduction of risk factors associated with CVD and help maintain heart health.

For more information on the important role that vitamin E may play in cardiovascular health, read ‘Strategic nutrition for heart health’ here.

[1] DSM ‘Trends in health concerns across Europe, Middle East and Africa’ 2016

[2] http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1816.htm

[3] Knekt P, Reunanen A, Jarvinen R, Seppanen R, Heliovaara M, Aromaa A. Antioxidant vitamin intake and coronary mortality in a longitudinal population study. Am J Epidemiol. 1994;139(12):1180-1189

[4] Kushi LH, Folsom AR, Prineas RJ, Mink PJ, Wu Y, Bostick RM. Dietary antioxidant vitamins and death from coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. N Engl J Med. 1996;334(18):1156-1162.

[5] Péter S et al. A systematic review of global alpha-tocopherol status as assessed by nutritional intake levels and blood serum concentrations. Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res., 2016, 1–21

[6] Traber et al. Metabolic syndrome increases dietary α-tocopherol requirements as assessed using urinary and plasma vitamin E catabolites: a double blonde, crossover clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr ajcn138495; First published online January 11, 2017.

[7] Pignitter, M., Stolze, K., Gartner, S., Dumhart, B., Stoll, C., Steiger, G., Kraemer, K. and Somoza, V. (2014) Cold fluorescent light as major inducer of lipid oxidation in soybean oil stored at household conditions for eight weeks. J Agric Food Chem. 62, 2297 – 2305.


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