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E for excellence?

Scientific interest in vitamin E continues to mount as further studies suggest its benefits in an increasing number of diseases. (See our January and February issues.) In addition to cancer and coronary heart disease, the list includes skin cancer, muscle injury, cataracts, osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson's disease, and immunity to infections.

As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E can protect cells against the infamous "free radicals"---highly active atomic particles that require oxygen to complete their molecular structure and obtain it by reacting with many kinds of chemicals in the cells. This process, known as oxidation, damages the cells, leading to a variety of diseases.

All cells require vitamin E for normal development, and a balanced diet easily provides the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 8 mg for women and 10 mg for men. For its protective antioxidant effect, however, it appears that a much larger intake is required. A low-fat, high-vegetable diet provides, on average, about three times the RDA---enough, some think, to provide significant benefits. A daily bowl of cereal fortified with vitamin E can double that intake.

To obtain the much larger intake that some studies suggest as desirable, supplemental vitamin E is required. Not all experts agree that the evidence yet supports such a recommendation. However, for those who wish to join other experts who themselves are already taking vitamin E supplements, our previous recommendation of a daily dose in the range of 100-400 international units (IU) still holds. Larger doses are safe, but the excess is simply excreted-and thus is a waste.

A well-balanced diet with plenty of vitamin C and beta-carotene not only provides good antioxidants but also seems to enhance the effect of vitamin E.
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Title Annotation:vitamin E
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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