Vitamin E is one of a group of nutrients known as anti-oxidants. Exposure of our tissues to vital oxygen causes us to “rust” just like the Tin Man. Anti-oxidants slow or prevent the rusting of the tissues. For this reason, many experts have advised taking Vitamin E supplementation to convey health benefits. This has generated considerable debate in the medical community. In support of the anti-Vitamin E side, in the last few years a number of published studies show that Vitamin E does not prevent heart disease. Editorials have followed in medical journals advising that vitamin E should no longer be taken for health purposes.

Diabetics are at particularly high risk for heart disease and other “cardiovascular” problems. Due to favorable effects of vitamin E on the nerve endings and eyes of diabetics, many endocrinologists have continued to advise their patients to use it, while their cardiologists (heart specialists) advise them to stop. Recent research finally has shown that vitamin E may also be valuable to prevent cardiovascular disease in diabetics. How can this be explained?

Dr. Andrew Levy and his colleagues in Israel have been working with a naturally occurring anti-oxidant in the blood called haptoglobin. A portion of the population has a type of haptoglobin that is only a weak anti-oxidant (hp-2). Diabetics with the weak form of haptoglobin have anywhere from 2 to 5 times the incidence of cardiovascular events compared to those with strong haptoglobin (hp-1). Dr. Levy found that diabetics with the weak hp-2 who took 400 IU of vitamin E daily had about one half the incidence of cardiovascular events (heart attack, stoke, death) as those who didn’t take vitamin E. The thought is that vitamin E can provide the anti-oxidant benefits that the weak haptoglobin cannot. The researchers stress that this benefit cannot be assumed for the general population and using vitamin E remains controversial.

Vitamin E supplementation remains a subject of controversy. Consult your doctor about their advice on this subject. Keep in mind that prevailing medical opinion is generally against vitamin E use because of recent negative reports on vitamin E and the prevention of heart disease in normal individuals.

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