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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Vitamin E Helps Maintain Strong Bones

By Michael McBurney

Vitamin E is an antioxidant known to protect polyunsaturated fatty acids and other sensitive moieties within cell membranes, tissues (brain, eyes, muscles, etc) and sperm from oxidative damage. Shi and colleagues report that low vitamin E status may jeopardize bone health.

Collecting data from 3,203 adults (1,178 women and 1,025 men), 40-75y, living in China, dietary vitamin E intake and serum α-tocopherol concentrations were positively associated with bone mineral density (BMD) in women. They did not find a BMD relationship in males, possibly because serum vitamin E concentrations (corrected for cholesterol) ratios were lower in the highest quintile, ranging from 6.5-16 among men vs 7-25 among women.

Michaelsson and colleagues reported low dietary vitamin E intake and low serum α-tocopherol concentrations were associated with increased risk of hip fractures in elderly men and women. The data in women showed increased risk with low dietary vitamin E intake. Among men, each standard deviation decrease in serum α-tocopherol concentration was associated with a 1.58-fold increased risk of hip fracture.

According to NHANES 2011-2012, the average American adult >20y consumes 9.1 mg vitamin E daily from food and beverages and the RDA for those over 14y is 15 mg daily. Almost 2/3 of American adults have serum vitamin E concentrations below 30 µmol/L, the concentration associated with the vitamin E RDA. The serum concentrations measured in the studies by Shi et al (2015), Michaelsson et al (2013) and McBurney et al (2015) are similar so a similar serum vitamin E and BMD relationship can be expected among US adults.

In summary, inadequate vitamin E intake results in low vitamin E concentrations which could be jeopardizing bone health and other biological functions affected by antioxidant status.  

Main Citation

Shi W-Q, Liu J, Cao Y, Zhu Y-Y, Guan K, Chen Y-M. Association of dietary and serum vitamin E with bone mineral density in middle-aged and elderly Chinese adults: a cross-sectional study. 2015 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114515004134

Other Citations

Michaelsson K, Wolk A, Byberg L. Intake and serum concentrations of alpha-tocopherol in relation to fractures in elderly men and women: 2 cohort studies. 2014 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.064691

McBurney MI, Yu EA, Ciappio ED, Bird JK, Eggersdorfer M, Mehta S. Suboptimal serum α-tocopherol concentrations observed among younger adults and those depending exclusively upon food sources, NHANES 2003-2006. 2015 PLoSONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135510