HEART
September 18, 2007

Vitamin E: Yes and No

Vitamin E appears to help some people avoid heart disease. But it may make others more vulnerable to it.
Is taking vitamin E good for you? If you have been reading the papers, you are likely to be unsure. Some studies say yes; others say no. Now, a new study of vitamin E and heart disease suggests that the real answer might be yes and no.

That is, vitamin E appears to help some people avoid heart disease. But for others, it doesn't and in fact, may make some people more vulnerable to it.

The study appears in the September issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Scientists at Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR) fed 250 baboons a diet containing equal amounts of fat and cholesterol, but differing amounts of vitamin E.

vitamin E appears to help some people avoid heart disease. But for others, it doesn't and in fact, may make some people more vulnerable to it.

"What we found was that vitamin E had a significant effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors, but those effects went in opposite directions. Some of the effects were positive, and some were negative," said Dr. David Rainwater of the SFBR Department of Genetics and the lead author of the study. "This leads us to believe that the discrepancies in human studies are due to which effect is emphasized in the group of people studied."

Rainwater explained that baboons receiving higher levels of vitamin E had their levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol lowered. "Oxidized LDL is believed to be a major player in terms of causing atherosclerosis, or fatty plaque buildup in the arteries, and in cardiovascular disease in general," he said. "So in this way, vitamin E was shown to play a protective role."

But there was also a downside: vitamin E also decreased the average particle size of HDL, the so-called "good cholesterol," which is not so good.

"A decrease in the size of HDL particles is generally associated with an increase in atherosclerosis," said Rainwater. "So we found that vitamin E is exerting two different effects on HDL properties, one positive and one negative with respect to heart disease."

So what does it mean? The answer may well be in our genes. Vitamin E's positive influence does not appear to be related to genetics, but genes do appear to play a role in the negative effect vitamin E can have on HDL particle size.

"So although this study doesn't give us a definite answer about whether or not everyone should increase their vitamin E intake, it does help explain the reason for the controversy over dietary vitamin E and its influence on cardiovascular disease," said Rainwater.

"It also tells us that vitamin E might be beneficial to some individuals and not to others depending upon their genetic makeup. That means we need to conduct further investigations to find the genes involved."
COMMENTS
NOTE: We regret that we cannot answer personal medical questions.
LATEST NEWS
Infections
Bad News, Boomers
 
FOLLOW US
© 2016 interMDnet Corporation.