Did you see the recent news story that 400 IU of Vitamin E raises prostate cancer risk 17%? It’s typical of a number of recent news items in the popular media written by journalists who don’t dig deep enough to learn the whole truth. What the vitamin E stories didn’t say is that the supplement used was synthetic alpha tocopherol which has known toxic effects. Synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha tocopherol or all-rac-alpha-tocopherol acetate) is best avoided – use only the biological form d-alpha tocopherol.
There are two families of vitamin E, each with four “siblings” – the better known tocopherols and their cousins the tocotrienols, each with alpha, beta, gamma and delta forms. Alpha tocopherol is the most biologically active form and is often the only E in cheaper supplements. The problem with taking only alpha tocopherol is that it displaces gamma tocopherol which is known to prevent cancer (a large study from Johns Hopkins showed a 5 fold reduction in prostate cancer risk in men who had the highest gamma tocopherol levels). A mixed E with all four forms of tocopherols is better, and those including the tocotrienol family are best.
Tocopherols are best known for their antioxidant properties – protecting our cells from damage by free radicals and other carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals). Tocopherols also promote heart and circulation health, enhance the immune system, protect the brain, help with PMS and menopausal symptoms, improve fertility, prevent cataracts, and slow the aging process.
Recent studies of tocotrienols are very promising, especially in cancer prevention. Studies are showing that delta tocotrienol induces aptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. Tocotrienols may also slow angiogenesis – the development of new blood vessels to feed growing tumours. Tocotrienols are also many times more efficient at finding and neutralizing free radicals than the tocopherols.
I would like to see the study referred to in my introduction repeated using a natural complete vitamin E. The results would likely be quite different.
Main sources: mercola.com and Cancer Defeated Newsletter #138, November 27, 2011
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.