The virtues of vitamin E

Today's top medical news and feel-better tips

New research trumpets antioxidant's benefits

The heart and the eyes. According to new research, both of these might benefit from vitamin E:

• A small pilot study suggests the nutrient may help the ticker by slowing atherosclerosis. Two groups of 12 normal men were given either 800 international units per day of vitamin E or a placebo for 12 weeks. The men getting the E saw their LDL cholesterol 50 percent less likely to undergo oxidation (Journal of Lipid Research, June 1992). That's a process in which free-radical oxygen molecules cause those cholesterol particles to go bad. Researchers speculate that this in turn could lead to clogged arteries.

"The dose was much higher than the recommended dietary allowance--but this is a whole new ball game," says Ishwarlal Jialal, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "The RDA pertains to deficiency problems--we're talking about a different potential function in decreasing heart-attack risk."

• Vitamin E has also been linked to a lower risk of one of the most common cataract formations, called a nuclear cataract. "The risk for this cataract was roughly cut in half in people who had the highest blood levels of vitamin E," says Susan Vitale, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, commenting on a study involving 832 people. The nutrient, she believes, may help by shielding the lens against oxidative damage, which may be caused by factors such as cigarette smoking. Talk to your doctor if you're considering taking E in large doses, since they may interact with other medications.

Photo: Vitamin E (JAY TEXTER)

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By Greg Gutfeld

With Linda Rao and Maureen Sangiorgio

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