Vitamin E Research: Current Science and Future Directions

FEBRUARY 02, 2017
Leah Mangini, 2017 PharmD candidate, the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy

In the almost 100 years since its discovery, vitamin E has been recognized as an antioxidant. However, recent findings suggest that the compound and its metabolites have roles that go beyond metabolism, gene regulation, immunomodulation, and neuroprotection. 
 
Free Radical Biology and Medicine has published a review of emerging aspects and future directions of vitamin E research in its November 2016 issue. This information, they believe, can help guide nutritional recommendations and trials on age-related and chronic disease prevention. 
 
The researchers collected and summarized several clinical trials and meta-analyses regarding vitamin E metabolism, function, and potential disease protection.
 
Evidence suggests that vitamin E has cytoprotective properties, which may play a role in the primary and secondary prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
 
Vitamin E may exert neuroprotective effects in several stages of life. Studies suggest that it may reduce risk of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Fetal and neonatal development depends in part on vitamin E, and optimal intake during pregnancy and lactation must be further defined. 
 
Supplementation beyond the required daily intake may have beneficial effects in chronic kidney disease, cholestatic liver disease, and cystic fibrosis. Additional studies also suggest that it prevents atherosclerosis and attenuates allergic inflammation.
 
Conversely, vitamin E supplementation may contribute to an increased risk of cancer and overall mortality.
 
The authors propose that clinicians consider 2 potential dosing ranges: 1 that correlates with its usual biological effects, and another higher range responsible for additional suggested preventive effects. 
 
The researchers conclude that more studies are needed to evaluate the safety, negative outcomes, and underlying molecular mechanisms of vitamin E and its related compounds. Scientists need to elucidate these compounds' biologic mechanisms to investigate these claims further.

Reference

Galli F, Azzi A, Birringer M, et al. Vitamin E: Emerging aspects and new directions. Free Radic Biol Med. 2017;102:16-36. 
 

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