Life Extension Update
Higher vitamin E levels associated with lower mortality in men over 19 year period
The results of a large study of older male smokers, published in the November, 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that having higher blood levels of vitamin E is associated with a reduced risk of dying from all causes as well as specific causes including cardiovascular disease and cancer during a 19 year follow-up period.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, in collaboration with the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, Finland, evaluated data from participants in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study, which enrolled 29,133 male smokers aged 50 to 69 who resided in Finland. Blood samples collected from 29,092 participants upon enrollment were analyzed for alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), beta-carotene, retinol, and cholesterol levels.
Mortality was tracked for up to 19 years of follow-up, during which there were 4,518 deaths from cancer, 5,776 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and 3,002 deaths from other causes. Men whose serum alpha-tocopherol levels were in the highest one-fifth of participants had an 18 percent lower risk of death from all causes than those in the lowest fifth. The risk of dying from cancer was 21 percent lower, that of cardiovascular disease was 19 percent lower, and the risk of death from other causes was 30 percent lower for men in the top fifth compared to those whose vitamin E levels were lowest. Among cancer deaths, the risk of dying from prostate cancer was reduced by 32 percent and lung cancer by 21 percent for men in the highest group. Reductions in mortality risk were associated with values of up to 13 to 14 milligrams alpha-tocopherol per liter, which is within the normal range.
"Our findings support a more robust role for circulating alpha-tocopherol in overall, cancer, and cardiovascular disease mortality than was suggested by previous studies," the authors write. In their discussion, they note the discrepancies between their findings and those of previous trials concerning the effect of supplementing with vitamin E on mortality, and observe that high doses of alpha-tocopherol given alone reduce plasma concentrations of gamma and delta tocopherols, which might help explain results that found little or no benefit for vitamin E.
In an accompanying editorial, Maret G. Traber of the Linus Pauling Institute writes that only 12 milligrams per day vitamin E was estimated to result in serum levels within the middle range of participants in the ATBC study. However," Dr Traber notes, "12 mg vitamin E is an amount that is greater than that estimated to be consumed by 93% of men and 96% of women in the United States." She suggests that "the vitamin E recommended dietary allowance of 15 milligrams per day may yield optimal serum concentrations to achieve significant reductions in chronic disease mortality. However, 15 mg/d may be a vitamin E intake that is achieved only with supplements, given the dietary habits of most Americans and the observation that vitamin E–rich food sources are less popular foods."
Novel approaches are urgently needed that reverse, suppress, or prevent lung cancer development (van Zandwijk N 2005). Early detection offers the best chance for long-term survival (Saba NF et al 2005). The conventional choices of treatment include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy and depend on the type and stage of the cancer (European Lung Cancer Working Party 2006). Irrespective of the treatment method used, complementary therapy, such as nutritional supplementation and the use of bioresponse modifiers, is an important addition to traditional treatment that could help control symptoms, enhance quality of life, and improve overall survival (Jatoi A et al 2005b).
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