By: Scott M. King
It seems hard to believe that a simple, over-the-counter vitamin could greatly reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease, lower HbA1c levels and improve insulin sensitivity without anyone having noticed. But, until recently, vitamin E seems to have been doing just that.
While it holds a great deal of promise, vitamin E has slipped through the research cracks. Very few large scale studies have been done, and as a result, your doctor may not have recommended it.
This is because vitamin E is just that, a vitamin, plain and simple. It isn’t some new wonder drug that would warrant a great deal of attention and research money from the major players in the drug industry. They would rather focus their energies on developing new drugs to be patented and receive that products exclusive production rights.
Vitamin E is a simple nutritional supplement, there’s no financial incentive for them to investigate its positive effects. As a result, what now appears to be an extremely useful tool to fight diabetes is being neglected.
I take it myself and recommend it to friends with diabetes and those at risk. Here is a quick review of some of the great news about vitamin E that needs to be heard.
Vitamin E is a member of the antioxidant group of nutrients that includes vitamin C and beta-carotene. In the past few years, doctors have noticed that people who ingest larger amounts of anti-oxidants have fewer heart attacks, a serious risk for people with diabetes.
A report in the May 1993 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showed an association between a high intake of vitamin E and a lower risk of coronary heart disease for men. More recently, at the 1996 annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, a study of 2,002 subjects with serious heart disease was presented. The study found that after 17 months 41 members of the placebo taking group suffered from non-fatal heart attacks, while only 14 of the group taking 400-800 IU of vitamin E per day suffered from such problems (the USRDA is only 12-15 IU).
In addition to its positive effects on coronary heart disease, a study published in the British Medical Journal in October of 1995 found that below average vitamin E levels were associated with a 390 percent increase in the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin E has also proven to have a positive effect on those who already have diabetes. A study in the January 1991 issue of Diabetes Care demonstrated that after only one month “vitamin E administration reduces protein glycosylation.”
Later, a study in the November of 1993 issue of Diabetes Care showed that, after a three month test period, vitamin E reduced plasma glucose, triglycerides, fatty acids and total cholesterol in test subjects with type 2 diabetes. HbA1c levels were significantly lower after vitamin E therapy as well.
This study, as well as one published in the May 1993 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and another conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, showed that large daily doses of vitamin E improved glucose utilization and insulin action in control subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin E is easily accessible and inexpensive, and it is safe in amounts less than or equal to 800 IU per day. But, amounts of 1000 IU or more per day could cause hemorrhaging and may actually work as a pro-oxidant. Vitamin E proponent, Daniel J. Claes, MD, of Pacific Palisades, Calif., says, “I prescribe synthetic vitamin E because some natural sources contain large amounts of phytoestrogens (plant estrogens).”
Check with your health care professional to see if they have any suggestions or opposition to you taking 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E a day.