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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Suboptimal Vitamin E Status may be Affecting Health

By Michael McBurney

For the past decade, health professionals have ignored vitamin E. Even the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee chose not to identify vitamin E as a ‘nutrient of concern’ although it was identified as one of 10 nutrients (Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, choline, calcium, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber) missing from our diet.

Plants make 8 different forms of vitamin E but only α-tocopherol is maintained in plasma and tissue. Only the 2R-stereoisomeric forms of α-tocopherol reverse vitamin E deficiency and meet human vitamin E requirements. In a new review, Dr Traber writes:

“Non-α-tocopherols are rapidly metabolized, do not substitute for α-tocopherol, and cannot be metabolically converted to α-tocopherol by humans and therefore should not be included in measures of vitamin E intake.”  

Because most vitamin E research has been conducted in adults, relatively little is understood about vitamin E requirements in children. Because vitamin E associates with lipids in the blood, adequately nourished obese children may be consuming inadequate amounts of antioxidant vitamins to prevent oxidative stress.

The prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and metabolic syndrome (MS) is increasing among obese children.  NAFLD currently affects nearly 11% of adolescents and 50% of obese males. There are no outward signs of NAFLD until it progresses to cirrhosis. While there is no medical treatment for NAFLD, researchers are comparing the effect of vitamin E supplementation versus prescription drugs on liver enzyme levels in pediatric and adult populations with NAFLD. Intriguing.

Vitamin E is essential to protect lipids in organs such as the liver and circulating lipids from oxidation. Most of us do not eat enough nuts, seeds, and α-tocopherol-rich oils as part of our diet. The Linus Pauling Institute issued a press release summarizing the publication. Vitamin E expert, Dr Maret Traber, professor at Oregon State University,  is quoted recommending a supplement for all people with at least the estimated average requirement of vitamin E. Like it has been written before, vitamin E shouldn’t be overlooked.

Main Citation

Traber MG. Vitamin E inadequacy in humans: causes and consequences. 2014 Adv Nutr doi: 10.3945/an.114.006254

Other Citations

Gupta R, Bhangoo A, Matthews NAV, Anhalt H, Matta Y, Lamichhane B, Malik S, Narwal S, Wetzler G, Ten S. The prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome in obese children. 2011 J Ped Endocrinol Metab doi: 10.1515/JPEM.2011.282

Welsh JA, Karpen S, Vos MB. Increasing prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease among United States adolescents, 1988-1994 to 2007-2010. 2013 J Ped doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.08.043

Levine JE, Schwimmer JB, Van Natta ML, Molleston JP, Murray KF, Rosenthal P, Abrams SH, Scheimann AO, Sanyal AJ, Chalasani N, Tonascia J, Unalp A, Clark JM, Brunt EM, Kleiner DE, Hoofnagle HH, Robuck PR. Effect of vitamin E or metformin treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in children and adolescents. The TONIC randomized controlled trial. 2011 JAMA doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.520

Sanyal AJ, Chalasani N, Kowdley KV, McCullough A, Diehl AM, Bass NM, Newschwander-Tetri BA, Lavine JE, Tonascia J, Unalp A, Van Natta M, Clark J, Brunt EM, Kleiner DE, Hoofnagle JH, Robuck PR. Prioglitazone, vitamin E, or placebo for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. 2010 NEJM doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0907929