Study finds huge variability in vitamin E absorption

CORVALLIS A new study has found that cereal fortified with vitamin E has a very high rate of absorption into the bloodstream, whereas pills taken separately with the same food have inconsistent effects, and taking the supplements alone is largely useless.

The research was just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by scientists from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

The study points the way to more effective methods of taking this essential vitamin if people wish to supplement their diet, said Maret Traber, a professor with OSU's Linus Pauling Institute and national expert on vitamin E who recently served on federal panels to update the RDA for this vitamin.

As an antioxidant, vitamin E is one of the most commonly taken vitamin supplements in the world and included in virtually every multivitamin pill.

The research may explain, Traber said, why many past research studies done with vitamin E have varied findings. It's quite possible, she said, that the manner in which people took vitamin E supplements and the variation in its bioavailability from person to person have yielded widely inconsistent results about the value of this nutrient in heart disease and other degenerative diseases.

It may also be time to consider routine fortification of more foods with this vitamin, Traber said.

"For good reasons, Americans are increasingly moving towards low-fat diets," Traber said. "But average low-fat diets provide only about 5-8 international units a day of vitamin E. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E is 30 I.U. and it's possible that higher amounts than that are useful for optimal health. So we have to find ways to make sure everyone is getting enough of this nutrient."

A glitch, the researchers say, is that vitamin E is an oil, and people are now being told to use oils very sparingly. It can be found in nuts, oily fish, some vegetables and oils such as safflower, olive a

Contact: Maret Traber
Oregon State University

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