Vitamin E and Heart Disease
Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin.
One of the roles fat
plays in the diet is to transport fat-soluble vitamins. So Vitamin E is carried
through the body attached to fat. The body stores vitamin E in fat deposits
and in the liver.
Much research has focused on the role vitamin E may play in
the prevention of heart disease
because of its antioxidant
properties. Antioxidants are believed to be helpful in preventing heart disease.
Vitamin E's role in heart disease prevention is not
completely understood. Scientists believe that it may protect artery
walls from the build up of plaque. It may help to strengthen blood vessel
walls. It may also reduce LDL,
known as the "bad" cholesterol, and increase HDL,
known as the "good" cholesterol. Vitamin E also has mild blood-thinning properties.
This may keep platelets, the parts of the blood that enable the blood to clot,
from sticking together and also protect arteries.
Other studies from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute are trying to pinpoint how much antioxidant we need for health
benefits. Antioxidants such as vitamin C
and selenium work with vitamin E to protect the body.
Additional diet and lifestyle factors are also key factors
in cutting the risk of heart disease. There should also be a balance
between the intake of vitamins
Too much of one vitamin can cause imbalances in the amounts
of other vitamins in the body. Groups including the American Heart
Association and the American Dietetics Association continue to
recommend a balanced diet as the first step toward disease
prevention, with antioxidant-rich foods such as:
fresh fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries
fresh vegetables, including broccoli, sweet potatoes, Brussels
sprouts, and spinach
The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of
Sciences recently increased the Recommended Dietary Allowance,
called RDA, level for vitamin E to maximize health benefits to the body.
Levels were raised from 10 milligrams (mg) daily to 15 mg daily for adult men
Alpha-tocopherol, the most potent form of vitamin E, is
what is the usual form in supplements. The Board has set an upper
level of 1,000 mg for alpha-tocopherol . Upper levels are not the
recommended amount to take. They are the maximum
amount of a vitamin or mineral that can be taken safely without causing health problems.
People should not routinely go above the set upper levels for any vitamin
or mineral. Very large doses can lead to health problems instead of
providing health benefits. Too much vitamin E can interfere with blood
clotting and increase a person's bleeding time
to harmful levels.
Despite the promising reports about vitamin E, some
researchers are not finding the same positive results. One study in the New
England Journal of Medicine found no benefit to heart disease from
increased intake of vitamin E. These conflicting reports support the
need for further research.
The clearest recommendation is that people
should consult their doctors before starting to take high
doses of any vitamin. This is especially true for people taking
blood-thinning medicines, such as aspirin, warfarin sodium, or coumadin.