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Live two years longer with extra vitamin E

Live two years longer with extra vitamin E
According to most scientists, alpha-tocopherol (one form of vitamin E) supplementation is useless. The Finnish ATBC trial (1985-1993), for example, showed that supplementation had no effect. In 2011 the Finnish scientists Harri Hemilä and Jaakko Kaprio published a study in which they had another good look at the results of the ATBC trial, and they reached a different conclusion.

In the ATBC trial [] male smokers were given 20 mg beta-carotene and/or 50 mg alpha-tocopherol daily. When it became clear that beta-carotene increased the chances of developing lung cancer the trial was brought to a halt prematurely.

In retrospect the beta-carotene dose was extremely high. The EFSA recommends that we consume no more than 15 mg beta-carotene daily in the form of supplements. EFSA's maximum dose for alpha-tocopherol is 300 mg per day. [Link]

Hemilä and Kaprio confined themselves to the men older than 65 in the ATBC trial, and in the first instance they only looked at the effect of alpha-tocopherol.

In the group of 10,837 over 65s as a whole, alpha-tocopherol supplementation had no effect. But among the over 70s the vitamin did seem to lower the mortality risk.

Live two years longer with extra vitamin E

In the end alpha-tocopherol extended the life expectancy of the over 70s by six months the researchers calculated. And, yes, that's a statistically significant effect.

When the researchers separated out their data, they discovered that the alpha-tocopherol only extended the life expectancy of the men who smoked fewer than 20 cigarettes a day and consumed more than 90 mg vitamin C a day. Alpha-tocopherol extended life expectancy by two years in this sub-group.

Live two years longer with extra vitamin E

Live two years longer with extra vitamin E

Some of the men also took beta-carotene, but this was of no influence in this group. [Table]

"Our findings among the older ATBC participants support the previous reports indicating that protective measures against oxidative stress may increase the life expectancy of mammals under some conditions," concluded the researchers, referring to a number of animal studies. [Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2005 Nov;289(5):R1392-9.] [Rejuvenation Res. 2008 Feb;11(1):83-96.] [Gerontology. 1984;30(6):371-5.]

"Although the 2-year increase in lifespan in the subgroup of participants who had high vitamin C intake and smoked less is substantial, only 20 percent of the study participants belong to this subgroup. The lack of benefit in the other participants, consisting of 80 percent of this male cohort, shows that vitamin E is no panacea for extending life expectancy."

"Given the heterogeneity in the effect, the findings should not be generalised without caution. Nevertheless, our findings warrant further study on the possible effect of vitamin E on old people."

Age Ageing. 2011 Mar;40(2):215-20.

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Vitamin E

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Human study by researchers at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, published in the Journal of Physiology.

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High doses of vitamins C and E not harmful to athletes
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