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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diet and Nutrition > Vitamin E and Heart Disease
      Category : Health Centers > Coronary Artery Disease

Vitamin E and Heart Disease

Overview & Description | Functions and Sources

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 and minerals. 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
  • whole grains
  • 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 and women.

    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.


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    Vitamin E and Heart Disease: Functions and Sources

    Author: Kimberly Tessmer, RD, LD
    Reviewer: Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 09/16/02

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