- What is vitamin E?
- What are the types of vitamin E?
- Does vitamin E protect against prostate cancer?
- What does the research say?
- Gamma-tocopherol and Prostate Cancer
- Alpha- and gamma-tocopherols work together
- The Vitamin E Debate
- Vitamin E: Doctors Opinion
- Vitamin E supplements
- Ben’s Total Health for The Prostate
If you’re wondering if vitamin e can protect against prostate cancer, you’ve come to the right place.
Vitamins and minerals are nutrients found in nature. As you probably know, the only way to obtain most vitamins is through the diet. The body can synthesize some of them.
For example, the gut microflora produces vitamin K, and sunlight exposure produces vitamin D. But vitamin E does not have an alternative source. We should consume dietary sources or supplements.
As you will see throughout this article, vitamin E is beneficial for the organism. It has potent antioxidant activity and may reduce the incidence of cancer.
But, can you have protection against prostate cancer with vitamin E? What sources and types of vitamin E do we recommend?
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What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin involved in the function of the immune system and cell signaling. This vitamin is also essential for gene expression and other activities in the cell. It inhibits enzymes that contribute to cell proliferation in cancer. It inhibits platelet aggregation and has a vital role in cardiovascular health, too.
Some vitamins only act as cofactors, activating enzymes. Others have an innate ability to protect the body regardless of enzymes.
Vitamin E belongs to the latter group. Similar to vitamin C and beta carotene, vitamin E has antioxidant potential. It scavenges free radicals, reducing oxidative stress. In other words, vitamin E inactivates these unstable molecules and protects the body.
These unstable molecules contain an unpaired electron. They react with other molecules and oxygen, creating reactive oxygen species (ROS). These ROS travel throughout the body and damage tissues and body structures. What vitamin E does is stabilizing these molecules and stopping the production of ROS.
Vitamin E is one of the most popular antioxidants people look for. It is often consumed along with selenium supplements, an important mineral for the innate antioxidant activity of the human body (1).
In current smokers, vitamin E use can help fight the effects of aging in the skin. Another use recently adopted is to prevent prostate cancer, as we will discuss in this article.
What are the types of vitamin E?
In nature, vitamin E comes in eight different variants, subdivided into two main groups: tocopherols, and tocotrienols. There are four types of tocopherols and four types of tocotrienol—each one of them as a different degree of biological activity in the human body.
Out of the 8 variants, alpha and gamma-tocopherol are perhaps the most useful for humans (2).
Vitamin E supplements are usually in the form of alpha-tocopherol. However, other variants have similar effects on cardiovascular disease and other health parameters.
Dietary intake of alpha-tocopherol is extremely important for the organism. Actually, it is the form of vitamin E that frequently circulates in the body. Alpha-tocopherol is absorbed in the gut and goes directly into the liver. The liver gives preference to alpha-tocopherol and secretes this molecule.
It uses an enzyme called alpha-tocopherol to transfer protein and metabolizes other forms of vitamin E. This enzyme protects alpha-tocopherol from quick metabolization and elimination.
As a result, the concentration of vitamin E in the blood and tissues is almost exclusively alpha-tocopherol. There are other variants of vitamin E in the body but in a lower concentration. Thus, scientific research usually focuses on figuring out alpha-tocopherol (3).
For many years, alpha-tocopherol was the only type of vitamin E in use. Scientists believed it was the only one important. Now, other isoforms of tocopherol are necessary as well.
The absorption of tocopherol and tocotrienol follows the same path. To absorb it requires dietary fat, and the molecule reaches the skin, adipose tissue, and other structures of the body.
Recent studies have also detected significant concentrations of other types of vitamin E in the plasma. That’s why science has recently started to give more importance to gamma-tocopherol and tocotrienols (4).
The liver rapidly metabolizes vitamin supplements with gamma-tocopherol. The liver breaks down this molecule pretty fast. However, it does have a potent biological function, especially as an anti-inflammatory.
Despite having a reduced proportion in the blood, gamma-tocopherol is in the plasma. It is actually the most important form of vitamin E in the modern diet.
Gamma tocopherol has similar functions to those detected in alpha-tocopherol. But others are slightly different. For example, gamma-tocopherol inhibits a type of free radical more rapidly.
It has an important anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. It also contributes to the secretion of sodium by the kidneys, reducing blood pressure. Many studies suggest that gamma-tocopherol can significantly reduce cardiovascular risk. It is also a very promising weapon against prostate cancer (5).
Does vitamin E protect against prostate cancer?
Different mechanisms give the anticancer effect of vitamin E. In this section, we are covering the effects of vitmain E. So, vitamin E can be used for cancer prevention, making use of these mechanisms (6):
As mentioned above, vitamin E scavenges free radicals. This vitamin prevents lipid peroxidation and reduces oxidative stress. This protects the biological membranes as well as DNA integrity. Additionally, gamma-tocopherol stimulates the expression of glutathione peroxidase. This is one of the most potent antioxidants produced by the human body. Tocotrienols will also do their part, inducing another antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase.
This effect is more pronounced in gamma-tocopherol and tocotrienols. They inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase, which creates prostaglandins. Some variants of vitamin E also inhibit another enzyme called lipoxygenase. By doing so, they suppress inflammation, which is vital for tumor growth. Cancer feeds off inflammation, using this function to obtain more nutrients and grow. By reducing inflammation, vitamin E may inhibit the progression of the cell cycle in cancer cells. It may even induce apoptosis or programmed cell death.
Normal cells trigger healthy self-destruction when they detect abnormalities. Not having these mechanisms leads to an increased risk of cancer. But vitamin E arrests the cell cycle in cancer cells and promotes self-destruction. Once again, gamma-tocopherol is more potent than alpha-tocopherol in this particular function. They may trigger programmed cell death, contributing to the prevention of cancer.
Angiogenesis is new blood vessel creation to obtain new nutrients. It has an important role in tumor growth and metastasis. Vitamin E inhibits new blood vessel creation by cancer. This is especially the case when we use tocotrienols. They inhibit cell signaling used by cancer cells to promote endothelial cell migration and proliferation, which is the first step for new blood vessel formation.
Alpha-tocopherol inhibits platelet aggregation. It may also potentiate the anti-platelet effects of aspirin. Platelets form blood clots around circulating tumor cells. This way, it protects cancer cells in the blood and undergoes metastasis. The white blood cells that may eliminate them do not recognize them. By reducing platelet aggregation, vitamin E may inhibit this protective effect and lead to a decreased risk of metastasis in advanced prostate cancer and lung cancer.
Inhibition of HMG CoA Reductase
There is a dysregulation of HMG CoA Reductase in some malignant cells. This dysregulation contributes to cancer proliferation. The anti-tumor effect by inhibiting this enzyme is mainly in the tocotrienols. This field of study is yet under research and warrants further studies.
All of these effects contribute to reducing the prevalence of different types of cancer. Thus, vitamin E and prostate cancer is a highly debated topic since the 1980s.
Where are we now in this particular field of investigation? Is vitamin E considered a useful way to reduce cancer risk? Can we reduce prostate cancer incidence by taking vitamin E supplements? What about prostate cancer prevention?
What does the research say?
Vitamin E supplements were, for many years, proposed as a potential way to reduce cancer incidence. In theory, they should work. But in practice, many clinical trials show inconsistent results. Sometimes they do find a protective effect, but in other cases, they find no differences.
One of the most important clinical trials is the ATBC study, which looked at healthy men. It evaluated the incidence of lung cancer and the effect of vitamin E and carotenes. The researchers did not find any correlation with lung cancer at first. But then, they realized there was a relationship between prostate cancer and vitamin E. Higher alpha-tocopherol levels were associated with a lower incidence of prostate cancer (78).
Later on, in an 18-year follow-up of the ATBC study, the results were almost the same. The preventive effect of vitamin E and beta-carotene resulted in lower prostate cancer mortality (9).
The SELECT trial was another study, performed between 2001 and 2004 in three countries. This was a randomized controlled trial that intended to be a cancer prevention trial. But the vitamin E group did not have a lower incidence of prostate cancer compared to the placebo. Instead, the incidence was a bit higher though not statistically different (10).
The studies continued to be conflicting and inconsistent for many years. Recently, other isoforms of vitamin E received more attention. For example, gamma-tocopherol, and tocotrienols. The investigators discovered that a mixture of different isoforms of vitamin E is more efficient. It protects healthy cells from becoming prostate cancer cells.
Moreover, studies showed alpha-tocopherol alone could inhibit the anticancer activity of other isoforms of vitamin E. This finding explained the results of the select trial and paved the way for ongoing research (11, 12).
As noted above, old epidemiological data was not taking into account different isoforms of vitamin E. When the studies formulated, only alpha-tocopherol was considered important. We now know the potential anticancer activity of gamma-tocopherol and tocotrienols.
More specifically, research showed gamma-tocopherol, especially in combination with other forms of vitamin E such as delta-tocopherol, prompted cell death in prostate cancer cells. Alpha-tocopherol alone did not have this impact. More recent studies have provided evidence that gamma tocotrienols may be effective in targeting prostate cancer stem cells.
Gamma-tocopherol and Prostate Cancer
Some forms of vitamin E offer better anticancer benefits than others. This is true when it comes to alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol.
In a John Hopkins study, a total of 10,456 men participated in the trial, in which researchers compared alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, and selenium.
They found that men who had the highest blood levels of gamma-tocopherol were five times less likely to get prostate cancer.
Another important finding was that alpha-tocopherol and selenium protected against prostate cancer only when gamma-tocopherol intake was high. That means the alpha- and gamma-tocopherols have a synergistic effect when it comes to prostate cancer.
Then there was a review published in “Carcinogenesis” in 2010 in which the authors explained how many large-scale studies with alpha-tocopherol had not shown anticancer benefits.
The authors suggested this lack of effect was due to high doses of alpha-tocopherol, which reduced the body’s levels of delta-tocopherols. They also noted that gamma-tocopherol had “strong anti-inflammatory” properties and that it “may be the more effective form of vitamin E in cancer prevention.
They concluded by saying, “we propose that a gamma-tocopherol-rich mixture of tocopherols is a very promising cancer-preventive agent and warrants extensive future research.”
Yet another study indicated that gamma-tocopherol can help protect against development of prostate cancer.
From a total of approximately 20,000 men who donated blood samples to analyze micronutrients and prostate cancer risk, the investigators found “potential chemopreventive effects of gamma-tocopherol on prostate cancer” and a weak association between alpha-tocopherol and risk of prostate cancer.
Alpha- and gamma-tocopherols work together
The alpha form inhibits the production of cell-damaging free radicals, while the gamma form captures and neutralizes them. If the alpha-tocopherol level gets too high in the body, it tries to eliminate gamma-tocopherol in the cells. Therefore, both forms of vitamin E have to be kept in relative balance.
Men taking selenium and Vitamin E together did see a small increase in prostate cancer risk. However that increase in risk was so small that it fell well below the threshold for statistical significance.
Many studies show the prostate health benefits of both Vitamin E and Selenium, so we still recommend them as vital health supplements. Also, it is important to note that the study used dl-alpha tocopheryl and we recommend mixed tocopheryls, which are very different.
The SELECT trial is a single piece of research and we view it in the context of all of the other research into these nutrients. Overall we remain convinced by the scientific consensus that there are general and prostate-specific health benefits to taking Selenium and Vitamin E.
So before you begin vitamin E supplementation, always check the label. Generally, vitamin E is a blanket term covering a whole range of different nutrients, synthetic and natural, which can easily mislead you.
The Vitamin E Debate
The form of vitamin E given in the select trial was dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate, because this synthetic form of vitamin E was found to reduce prostate cancer incidence in the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta Carotene (ATBC) Cancer Prevention trial, which ran from 1985-1993. That study found a beneficial impact in Vitamin E supplementation on lung cancer.
However there is no comparing synthetic Vitamin E with natural vitamin E.
Natural vitamin E is a complex of 8 nutrients (mixed tocopherols), this includes Alpha, Delta and Gamma. All of which have been studied for their positive impact on cancer growth rates and risk. However synthetic Vitamin E is an artificially created Alpha Tocopherol, which is only 1 of the 8 components of Vitamin E.
Studies have shown that the different tocopherols modulate cancer risk in different ways.
The alpha form inhibits the production of cell-damaging free radicals, while the gamma form captures and neutralizes them.
Part of the problem in taking synthetic vitamin E is that taking too much of the alpha-tocopherols can have a negative impact. As when you have high doses of alpha tocopherols they destroy any gamma-tocopherol in the cells. Synthetic vitamin E may therefore cause more harm than good, however as a natural Vitamin E, like the one in Total Health, contains all forms of tocopherols and prevents any one level from going out of balance.
The SELECT trial is a single piece of research and we view it in the context of all of the other research into these nutrients. Overall we remain convinced by the scientific consensus that there are general and prostate-specific health benefits to taking Selenium and Vitamin E
Vitamin E: Doctors Opinion
Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin known for antioxidant function, and it may also boost the immune system. Like other vitamins, this micronutrient has other roles as well, and one of them could be to prevent prostate cancer.
A growing body of evidence confirms oxidative stress and impaired antioxidant defenses play a role in men with prostate cancer. The beneficial effect of vitamin E on prostate cancer prevention could be a result of antioxidant properties and its potential to neutralize free radicals.
When discussing this subject, it’s important to mention the October 2011 issue of JAMA featured a study that showed dietary supplementation with vitamin E may significantly increase the risk of prostate cancer in healthy men. More precisely, prostate cancers were more prevalent in men who took 400 IU (international units) of vitamin E per day than in subjects from the placebo group. Over seven years, there were 76 prostate cancers for every 1000 men among those who took vitamin E compared to 65 in 1000 men from the placebo group. When you compare them side by side, the difference between the two groups is not significant, which points to the possibility of other factors playing the role here.
What’s problematic about this study is the excessive dose. Men were taking doses that are too high for general consumption, and “regular” guys don’t need to take that much vitamin E on a daily basis.
Other pieces of evidence failed to confirm the harmful effect of vitamin E supplementation on prostate cancer. They also couldn’t confirm the combination of vitamin E and selenium could contribute to the development of this serious disease affecting the prostate gland.
An older study, published in 2007, found no link between prostate cancer and dietary tocopherols and tocotrienols (vitamin E categories). However, higher serum levels of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) could lower the risk of prostate cancer, especially in the advanced stages of the disease.
Worth mentioning is the study from 2014, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found supplementation with vitamins E and C didn’t have an immediate and long-term impact on the risk of cancers, including prostate cancer.
Evidence points to the theory that vitamin E ingested in the diet could be cancer preventive, but the excessively high consumption of supplements may not be.
A lot more studies are needed to determine whether vitamin E prevents or promotes prostate cancer. Further research is necessary to shed more light on this subject.
Dr. Anthony Anene
Men who eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains experience a reduced risk of cancer, including prostates cancer. The rich antioxidant content of these foods underscores their health benefits.
Indeed, studies in cell and animal models show that antioxidants protect DNA from damage and reduce the risk of cancer development. Furthermore, men with hypoxic (low oxygen) prostate cancer tend to experience worse outcomes. These observations suggest that supplementation with vitamins could be helpful for prostate health.
Unfortunately, clinical trials investigating these vitamins continue to return controversial results. For instance, some trials found that antioxidant supplements do not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease nor protect against cancer death. Consistent with these observations, a large clinical trial investigating the efficacy of Vitamin E in preventing prostate cancer found no significant differences compared to placebo. This study stopped early because of the potential for Vitamin E to increase the risk of prostate cancer risk.
Moreover, it is unclear if Vitamin E can reduce the risk of other prostate conditions such as prostate enlargement. The current evidence suggests that the potential benefits of antioxidants for prostate cancer, inflammation and enlargement may be restricted to the cocktail within food rich in fruits and vegetables, but not individually. Therefore, a balanced diet seems to me the best way to exploit the benefits of vitamins for promoting prostate health.
Vitamin E supplements
Intake of vitamin E should follow the Dietary Reference Intakes for healthy people. These references take into consideration gender and age.
In adults, the general recommendation is to receive 15 mg of alpha-tocopherol every day. In lactating women, this number goes slightly up, reaching 19 mg a day. Children’s intake is lower, ranging from 5 mg at one year and 11 mg at 9 to 13 years (13).
Food sources of vitamin E include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Some vegetable oils
- Fortified cereals
- Green leafy vegetables
However, the majority of Americans obtain vitamin E from:
- Canola oil
This is not alpha-tocopherol but gamma-tocopherol instead.
People often use vitamin E supplementation due to dietary restrictions and to prevent prostate cancer and other diseases. These dietary supplements sometimes come as a blend of tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each one of them has a distinct biological activity.
However, it is important to note that vitamin E supplements can be synthetic. It makes a lot of difference if you’re consuming synthetic or natural vitamin E. Synthetic vitamin E is half as active as the same amount of natural vitamin E. Therefore, you need to find a supplement that is either natural or has a double concentration of synthetic alpha-tocopherol (14).
Ben’s Total Health for The Prostate
Prostate cancer cases could be prevented by including in the diet sufficient vitamin E. But not only alpha-tocopherol. According to the current line of investigation, vitamin E supplements that only contain alpha-tocopherol are not enough.
What we need is a blend of vitamin E isoforms combined with selenium and other nutrients. Together they can potentially reduce the incidence of cancer.
That is why Total Health Vegicaps includes different isoforms of vitamin E, not just one. It is an attempt to move forward and offer a top-notch dietary supplement according to the latest evidence.
Clinically formulated, with natural 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors, Total Health works synergistically to combat the root causes of prostate disease and inflammation.
Find out more information on how this supplement can naturally improve urinary symptoms and nighttime awakening.
Reducing prostate cancer risk is nowadays challenging because there are many risk factors. Vitamin E has many potential pathways to reduce the incidence of cancer. It is a powerful antioxidant and reduces oxidative stress.
However, the clinical trials so far are outdated and do not consider what we now know about vitamin E isoforms. They only evaluate the role of alpha-tocopherol and do not consider tocotrienols and gamma-tocopherol.
Prostate cancer screening will always be important for a reduced risk of prostate cancer mortality.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS WEBPAGE IS NOT INTENDED TO BE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL.
Find out some more Prostate Cancer Prevention Strategies and How To Reduce Your Risk.