November 14, 2011
By Jonathan Benson
“Vitamin E is amazing – but not the synthetic version. Remember, whole food based raw supplements are the way to go. Don’t let the media turn this story into ‘vitamin E is bad for you.’ It’s not – but you have to be taking the natural version of vitamin E – like with all vitamins.” –KTRN
Most of the prominent studies that have come out in condemnation of vitamin E over the years have failed to explain the type of vitamin E used. An extremely thorough analysis conducted by the Life Extension Foundation (LEF), however, reveals why the synthetic alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E used in these studies actually does increase cancer risk, as well as why getting the full spectrum of natural vitamin E, on the other hand, is vital for preventing cancer and maintaining vibrant health.
The most recent Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), which involves more than 35,000 men from the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, is a perfect example of deliberate, deceptive pseudoscience. This study declared that vitamin E is dangerous and that it contributes to causing prostate cancer, which is technically true — but the reason why it is true, in context, is never properly explained.
The type of vitamin E used in the study was a synthetic version of just one form of vitamin E, alpha tocopherol. There are, in fact, four naturally occurring vitamin E tocopherols, and four naturally occurring vitamin E tocotrienols, none of which were used in the study — instead, researchers used just one variety, and an imitation one at that.
Synthetic vitamins, of course, have been shown to behave much differently than natural vitamins when consumed. Natural vitamins derived from whole foods work in tandem with other nutrients to provide benefits, while synthetic vitamins are isolated chemicals created in a chemistry lab. These synthetic vitamins end up being largely rejected by the body, and take with them a host of leeched minerals and other nutrients on their way out.
November 1, 2011
By Life Extension
Longtime members of the Life Extension Foundation® have heard our warnings against synthetic alpha tocopherol many times.
In 1997, we announced that taking only the alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E displaces critically important gamma tocopherol in the body.
By displacing gamma tocopherol, we feared that high doses of alpha tocopherol could increase cancer risks.
In fact, three years after Life Extension’s first warning, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health released the results of a huge study (10,456 men). The findings showed that men with the highest gamma tocopherol blood levels had a fivefold reduction in prostate cancer risk. This same study showed that selenium and alpha tocopherol also reduced prostate cancer risk but only when gamma tocopherol levels were high.1
Confirmatory studies document higher levels of gamma tocopherol to be strongly associated with reduced cancer risks.2,3,4,5
While both alpha and gamma tocopherol are potent antioxidants, gamma tocopherol has a unique function. Because of its different chemical structure, gamma tocopherol scavenges reactive nitrogen species, which can damage proteins, lipids, and DNA.6,7,8
Cancer is the end result of damage inflicted upon critical DNA genes that help regulate cellular growth and maturation. The fact that supplementation with isolated, synthetic alpha tocopherol depletes plasma gamma tocopherol levels means that the researchers who designed the SELECT trial created a biological catastrophe. The result of their ignorance is that men randomized to receive only synthetic alpha tocopherol suffered significant gamma tocopherol depletion and, consequently, DNA damage from reactive nitrogen species. The fact that higher prostate cancer rates were observed in the group overloaded with synthetic alpha tocopherol in the SELECT trial was predictable and expected based upon fundamental facts Life Extension understood more than a decade ago.
This costly government-funded study was initiated in the year 2001.
Life Extension was highly critical of this study design because it exposed healthy men to relatively high doses of synthetic alpha tocopherol without any supplemental gamma tocopherol to compensate. The results confirmed Life Extension’s worst fears. Compared to a placebo, men taking synthetic alpha tocopherol had a 17% greater incidence of prostate cancer.9 This is a tragedy from the standpoint of the study participants who should not have been given alpha tocopherol by itself. It was also a waste of tax dollars used to fund a study that was designed to fail from the outset.
In another arm of the study where selenium was given in addition to alpha tocopherol, there was not a statistically significant increase in prostate cancer.9 The study’s authors commented on the protective effect of selenium but never mentioned the damage they inflicted by failing to include gamma tocopherol in their study. Selenium boosts antioxidant defenses in the body (such as glutathione peroxidase) that would help compensate for the displacement of gamma tocopherol by alpha tocopherol.10
The doctors involved in the design of the study comprise a “who’s who” of the conventional cancer establishment. Virtually every major cancer center was involved in the study conception, and it seemed that virtually every pharmaceutical company had made generous payments to the study’s overseers. If there was ever a greater financial conflict of interest, we have yet to see it. It was in the economic interest of the drug companies, the cancer centers, and the mainstream doctors to see this study fail, and the harsh comments against dietary supplements by the mainstream doctors reveal a strong bias against over-the-counter dietary supplements.
While the study’s authors claim that there is not a “biological explanation” from their data to explain the increase in prostate cancer in the alpha tocopherol-only group, Life Extension long ago predicted in writing this study would fail. As we expected, the men in this study who received alpha tocopherol experienced a 45% depletion of vital gamma tocopherol during the initial 5.5-year median study period.9
A myriad of reports now point to the urgent need for Americans to obtain sufficient gamma tocopherol.8,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21 Yet the vast majority of human clinical research focuses only on alpha tocopherol – as if it were the only form of vitamin E people require. This article explains the mechanisms involved in the development of prostate cancer and why no single supplement can be counted on alone to prevent it.>>>
Based on reports showing antioxidants reduce the incidence of prostate cancer, the federal government spent over $114 million to see if synthetic alpha tocopherol and/or a single sourced selenium supplement would prevent prostate cancer in a large placebo-controlled trial conducted at major cancer centers throughout the United States.22
The long-term follow-up of the study named SELECT was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on October 12, 2011. Long before this study’s findings were released, Life Extension predicted that it would fail and warned that men taking high doses of alpha tocopherol without also taking gamma tocopherol faced increased disease risk.
In the initial results of the SELECT study over a median 5.5-year period, men supplemented with synthetic alpha tocopherol experienced significant gamma tocopherol depletion of 45%. Men supplemented with alpha tocopherol plus selenium experienced a 48% depletion of gamma tocopherol. These gamma tocopherol depletions occurred by 6 months that were sustained during the course of a median trial period of 5.5 years.22
It should be noted that serious supplement users choose natural alpha tocopherol because it has been shown to exert superior biological effects in the body.23,24 The synthetic form of alpha tocopherol is most often used in brand name multivitamins made by pharmaceutical companies that are widely advertised on national television. Organizations like Life Extension have resisted the cheap price of synthetic vitamin E and use the more expensive natural form of alpha tocopherol in nutrient formulations.
It should also be noted that the only form of selenium used in this study was L-selenomethionine (200 mcg). Yet scientific studies dating back to the 1970s show that other forms of selenium might provide greater protection against cancer. That’s why most Life Extension members obtain their selenium from more than one source that includes se-methylselenocysteine and/or, sodium selenite plus L-selenomethionine. 25,26,27,28,28a,28b,28c
Life Extension has conducted a thorough review of the SELECT study that is now being used as a basis used to attack dietary supplements. The more of this article you read, the more you will understand why the SELECT study was designed to fail from the outset.
January 4th, 2011
By: John Phillip
Health conscious people understand the importance of a diet that includes all the essential vitamins and minerals to avoid chronic illness as we age. Vitamin E is known to confer many health benefits including support for the heart and brain as well as being an immune system booster. Many are surprised to find out that this critical vitamin exists in many different natural forms, all of which are required for vibrant health. Those who supplement with the most common form of the vitamin in the absence of the full array of tocopherols may be placing their health at risk. A healthy natural diet of leafy greens, nuts, seeds and monounsaturated fats will ensure you receive full benefit from all sources of this misunderstood antioxidant vitamin.
Poor Diet and Basic Synthetic Multi-Vitamin Harmful to Health
There are 2 primary forms of vitamin E known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each form consists of 4 mirror isomers (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) that work in synergy to provide disease protection. Much research exists on the benefits of the most prevalent type of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol, that is isolated for use in most multi-vitamins. Many people eating a processed diet of junk food supplement with a basic synthetic multi-vitamin are unaware they have a vitamin E imbalance that could actually be harmful.
Optimal Antioxidant Action Requires All Forms of Vitamin E
In order to ensure you receive the antioxidant benefit from this powerful vitamin you need to cut all refined foods and sugar from your diet. Include leafy greens, vegetables, monounsaturated fats, fish, nuts and seeds that provide a healthy dose of the full spectrum of vitamin E. Some people will want to supplement when their diet is deficient in natural food options. Choose an organic whole food based vitamin source and be sure the alpha tocopherol being used is natural and not synthetic. The natural form includes the letter `d` at the beginning of the name.
The Vitamin E Family Prevents Heart Disease
In addition to protecting cells from damaging free radicals, the gamma form of vitamin E has shown the capability to reduce damaging levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol that can form arterial plaque. The results of a study published in the Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that gamma tocopherol lowers levels of blood fats known as triglycerides and was shown to inhibit atherogenic lesions. It`s important to note that both the alpha and gamma forms of vitamin E were necessary to produce the benefits seen in this study.
Cancer Risk Reduced with Tocotrienols
Lowered risk of hormone dependent cancer lines, including those affecting the breast and prostate, have been attributed to the full spectrum of vitamin E forms. In a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the alpha, gamma and delta forms of vitamin E were shown to halt cancer proliferation by forcing damaged cells to undergo apoptosis or programmed cell death. In this study alpha tocopherol was found ineffective underscoring the importance of the full range of tocotrienols and tocopherols.
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that is rapidly gaining status as a powerful agent in the fight against heart disease, cancer, dementia and immune health. It`s important to make certain you receive the full complement of tocotrienols and tocopherols that make up this diverse family of antioxidants through natural diet or targeted supplementation.