Vitamin E, Genetics, and Inflammation

Vitamin E Supplementation Depends on Your GenesVitamin E is  an antioxidant which is touted as a supplement that helps prevent cardiovascular disease and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.  It is an essential nutrient found in a variety of foods including wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter.

The RDA for adults is 15 mg/day (22.4 IU/day), and the upper tolerable limit is 1,00 mg (1,500 IU).  This is one vitamin that has several drug interaction warnings including antidepressants and blood thinners.  Check on drug interactions if you are taking a medication daily.

There are two forms of Vitamin E: tocopherol and tocotrienol.  Those forms are subdivided into alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-.  Alpha-tocopherol is the only one that is known to be necessary for people.  It is the most common form to find in supplements and enriched foods.

A headline-grabbing study in 1993 of 90,000 nurses found that those who supplemented with Vitamin E had fewer incidences of cardiovascular disease.  Since then, large clinical trials haven’t upheld the idea that Vitamin E prevents cardiovascular disease.  In fact, two studies, HOPE and HOPE TOO, actually found that in a randomized controlled trial of over 10,000 people, supplementing with Vitamin E did not lower the risk of heart disease.  There was actually a slight increase in mortality due to heart problems in those who supplemented with Vitamin E vs. placebo.

One possible reason for the inconclusive studies is genetic variations.  A more recent study showed that indeed there is a genetic component to whether a person benefits from supplementing with Vitamin E.

A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that supplementing with 75 IU of alpha-tocopherol (common form of Vitamin E), increased inflammatory cytokines depending on the genotype.  Specifically, for the GSTP1 polymorphism, rs1695, those with AA and AG had an increase in interleukin-6.

Check your 23andMe results for rs1695:

  • AA: increased interleukin-6 with supplementing alpha-tocopherol
  • AG: increased interleukin-6 with supplementing alpha-tocopherol
  • GG: decreased  interleukin-6 with supplementing alpha-tocopherol

So what is interleukin-6?  It is a cytokine that is involved in inflammation.  It induces an inflammatory response and is implicated in several autoimmune diseases including diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

To sum this all up, once again it all comes down to what is good for you, personally!

Dr. Weil: Facts About Vitamin E

University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin E

 NIH: Vitamin E Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

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