Vitamin E and Atherosclerosis.




American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Vitamin E
Professional Data: Vitamin E


Although it was discovered and isolated in the 1930s, vitamin E's function in the body has come to light relatively recently. Vitamin E is an extremely important fat-soluble antioxidant. It insures the stability and integrity of cellular tissues and membranes throughout the body by preventing free radical damage.

Because vitamin E is destroyed by heat and oxidation during cooking or food processing, eating processed foods and/or fast foods can contribute to a vitamin E deficiency. Meanwhile, good sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, wheat germ oil, seeds, nuts and soybeans. Other adequate sources are leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, whole-wheat products, whole grain breads and cereals, avocados, spinach and asparagus.

In addition to its antioxidant activity, vitamin E may support overall cardiovascular and circulatory health. It may also support the immune system and vision. During heavy exercise, vitamin E may also reduce the amount of exercise-induced free radical damage to the blood and tissues while helping the body reduce the incidence of exercise-induced muscle injury.

A recent study investigated the relationship between antioxidant vitamin intakes and the risk of pre-clinical atherosclerosis in women. A total of 310 women were examined by ultra sound to detect any signs of atherosclerosis and their plasma levels of certain antioxidants were measured. In addition, the women completed a food questionnaire. The results of this investigation showed an inverse association between atherosclerosis and vitamin E status. Also, the researchers found that higher levels of vitamin E were correlated with lower levels of plasma cholesterol. As for the other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A, there was no association found. The authors concluded that, "this association was independent of other cardiovascular risk factors, was not related to vitamin supplements, and supports the hypothesis that low vitamin E intake is a risk factor for early atherosclerosis."1


1. Iannuzzi A, et al. Dietary and circulating antioxidant vitamins in relation to carotid plaques in middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr. Sep 2002;76(3):582-7.