Better Nutrition

Vitamin e: the real danger

Conflictin­g studies have created confusion and raised concerns about the safety of high- dose supplement­s. Consequent­ly, a very real need for the vitamin may get overlooked

- By Vera Tweed

believe that past studies, which have alleged adverse consequenc­es from vitamin E, have misinterpr­eted the data,” says Maret Traber, PhD, one of the world’s leading experts on the vitamin and professor at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. “Taking too much vitamin E is not the real concern,” she says. “A much more important issue is that more than 90 percent of people in the U. S. have inadequate levels of vitamin E in their diet.”

Traber began studying the nutrient in the early 1980s, after seeing seemingly healthy teenagers become wheelchair- bound with neurologic­al conditions that defi ed medical diagnosis. A severe vitamin E defi ciency, due to a genetic defect that blocked absorption of the nutrient, turned out to be the cause. Once the defi ciency was corrected, the teens miraculous­ly regained their health.

Integrativ­e physicians often point to two other confoundin­g facts about negative studies: Many use synthetic rather than natural vitamin E, yet the two forms are not identical. And, most studies have focused only on the alpha- tocopherol form of the nutrient, but in nature, vitamin E comes in multiple forms.

Although there’s no doubt that the vitamin is essential, says Traber, we have yet to fully understand all its mechanisms and interplay with other nutrients. From what we do know, she suspects that apparent problems with vitamin E may stem from inadequate vitamin K. So she recommends getting the Recommende­d Dietary Allowance ( RDA) of 22.4 IU of natural vitamin E in a multivitam­in that also contains vitamin K.

How E Works

Imagine each cell in a human body being encased in a pouch, or membrane, which maintains its structure and integrity. A healthy membrane keeps invaders out but allows nutrients to enter and waste to exit.

“Every membrane in the body has to be protected, and if you don’t have enough vitamin E, your cells don’t repair properly, so they die,” says Traber, “And what is aging, but cells dying?” There are no immediate symptoms of a vitamin E defi ciency, but years of a shortfall can damage

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