This has been quite a week. First news reports scared women into thinking multivitamins are dangerous. Now, they’re scaring men into thinking vitamin E is a cause of prostate cancer. But, once again you’re not getting all the facts.
This media circus is focused on a study just released by the National Institutes of Health. When they followed up on participants who participated in SELECT, which was a large-scale trial meant to show vitamin E reduces prostate cancer, they found that those men taking vitamin E actually had a 17 percent increase in prostate cancer.
These findings don’t surprise me at all. The very design of this study was doomed to fail from the beginning. Let me explain why.
Vitamin E and Prostate Cancer
There are eight different forms of vitamin E (four tocopherols and four tocotrienols). If you give someone 400 IU of dl-alpha tocopherol alone—which is what they did in this study—it's my opinion that you’re essentially giving them an overdose of this one form of vitamin E.
What happens is that the dl-alpha tocopherol vitamin E overwhelms the vitamin E gamma receptors. So, instead of getting a protective antioxidant effect, you may get a pro-oxidative damaging effect because the peroxynitrite radicals go unchecked. Taking mixed tocopherols containing gamma tocopherols, on the other hand, overpowers the harmful peroxynitrite radicals.
That’s why I feel the best, and only, way to enjoy the health benefits of vitamin E is with mixed tocopherols. Specifically, you want to take d-alpha tocopherol succinate or acetate vitamin E with gamma tocopherol. It’s far safer and more effective than taking only one form of vitamin E alone.
Health Benefits of Vitamin E Enhanced by Vitamin C
But taking the right form of vitamin E is only part of the story. You also need to take it in combination with the right nutrients for the full health benefits of vitamin E.
These studies are always looking for a single “magic bullet.” They want to find one nutrient you can mega-dose on and solve your health ills. Your body doesn’t work that way, and some magic bullets may come back to hurt you as they did in this prostate study.
Here's one example of what's correct about this NIH study. The participants who were given vitamin E with selenium had no significant increase in or cause of prostate cancer. This is synergism at its best! Another amazing example of synergism that offers protection is taking vitamin E with vitamin C, which prevents pro-oxidative harm to HDL cholesterol.
So, what’s the bottom line for you? You want to take up to 400 IU of vitamin E with mixed tocopherols, along with other antioxidants such as 100 to 200 mg of vitamin C and/or 50 to 200 mcg of selenium to protect against the pro-oxidative effect of vitamin E. Most good multivitamin and mineral formulas contain such a configuration.
Now it’s your turn: Have you enjoyed the health benefits of vitamin E?
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