STUDIES have shown that smokers have notoriously low levels of vitamin E especially d-gamma tocopherol. This is because cigarette smoking depletes d-gamma tocopherol. Vitamin E (tocopherol) comprises four members – alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta tocopherol.
Latest research on vitamin E carried out by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in the United States, published in the January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirmed that vitamin E especially dgamma tocopherol is depleted more rapidly in smokers than in non-smokers, which may be a factor in the development of cancer. Cigarette smoke creates cancer-promoting free radicals, which vitamin E in lung and other tissue helps to neutralise.
Ten smokers and 10 non-smokers with similar diets were supplemented for six days with vitamin E. Blood samples were taken before, during and after the treatment period to measure vitamin E, vitamin C, uric acid and isoprostanes, which are an indicator of free radical damage.
It was revealed that blood plasma levels of vitamin E declined 13 percent more rapidly among smokers compared with non-smokers, while isoprostanes were on average 40 per cent higher. The researchers also found a correlation between the reduction of vitamin E and plasma levels of vitamin C in smokers that was not observed in the non-smoking group, suggesting that inadequate vitamin C levels accelerate the depletion of E in this group.
Lead researcher Maret G. Traber explained that while vitamin E is frequently the initial antioxidant to intervene against free radicals, it can itself be made into a radical. However, the presence of a sufficient amount of vitamin C aids in transforming vitamin E back to a non- radical form. When vitamin C is lacking, tissue levels of vitamin E are rapidly depleted.
Traber noted: “We’ve now shown this interaction among these two antioxidants in the human body for the first time, an important step forward. Smokers with the lowest vitamin C levels have the fastest disappearance of vitamin E. This is complex biochemistry, but it’s part of our body’s natural defence mechanism against toxins.”
A few large studies have shown immense benefits of vitamin E in reducing cardiovascular disease and death from heart attack, while others have been unsuccessful in showing similar results. This discrepancy may well be due to the fact that only alpha tocopherol was studied in isolation, while mixed tocopherols (especially gamma) were not considered. Hence, gamma tocopherol has been found to help shield smokers from their higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
This may also explain why vitamin E found in food is more effective than the conventional vitamin E supplements containing only alpha tocopherol in reducing death from cardiovascular disease. Food provides a broader spectrum of the vitamin E family than the conventional vitamin E supplement.
If you are taking vitamin E supplements, choose a vitamin E product that contains vitamin E succinate together with a mixture of alpha-, beta-, gammaand delta tocopherol as they work synergistically as a team to provide maximum health benefits.