Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Does Vitamin E cause prostate cancer? By Jerry Brainum

A study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2011;306:1549-1556)   followed up on a previous large scale study and found that middle-aged men who ingest 400 units a day of vitamin E show a 17% increased risk of prostate cancer(PC). The study included 35,533 men from 427 study sites in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico. To be eligible for the study, men had to show a normal prostate specific antigen (PSA) level and a digital rectal exam not suspicious for PC. In short, the men had to have normal prostate glands at the start of the study. The ages of the men were 55 years of older, and 50 years or older for black men, who show higher rates of PC.These men were randomly assigned to four groups:
1) Selenium alone, 200 micrograms a day with matched Vitamin E placebo
2) Vitamin E, 400 units a day with matched selenium placebo
3) Both Vitamin E and Selenium
4) Matched Vitamin E and Selenium placebos
    The men ingested these supplements a minimum of 7 years, with a maximum of 12 years. It's important to note that the type of vitamin E used in this study was a synthetic form of alpha tocopherol. There is some controversy as to whether the synthetic version of Vitamin E is as effective as the natural version. Synthetic E only increases to half the level of natural E in the blood, and also breaks down 3-4-times faster compared to natural E.  In addition, alpha tocopherol is only one of eight menbers of the vitamin E complex, which includes three other tocopherols and four tocotrienols. The fact that all eight members of this complex exist together in nature casts immediate doubt on the wisdom of supplying only one form. Not only that, but some of the other forms of E are capable of providing health benefits not provided by the alpha form alone. One example of this is that gamma tocopherol is not only more effective than the alpha version in protecting against cardiovascular disease, but also inhibits a substance called sphingolipid formation in PC cells that leads to the self-destruction of PC cells. The alpha version has no such effect. Gamma tocotrienol blocked 70% of PC onset when given to mice. In a study reported in 2002, providing a form of E called alpha tocopherol succinate was found to interfere with PSA and androgen receptors in the prostate, resulting in a 25-50% drop in the number of PC cells. Up to 90% of the cells were later destroyed. A study of male smokers from Finland found that providing only 50 units of Vitamin E daily lowered the incidence of PC by 32%, with 41% fewer deaths. That study examined 29,000 male smokers, ages 50 to 65. The ATBC study reported in 2005 found a 51% drop in the incidence of PC among men who used E supplements. A mouse study showed that when the rodents were given vitamin E, they lived 15% longer than mice not provided with E. The effect was thought to be due to an upgrading of a protein called P21, which prevents cancer, the main cause of death in rodents.
    While the idiotic popular press gleefully reported about how "Vitamin E causes prostate cancer" based on this new study, they failed to report that the study found no statistically significant increase in PC in men who ingested both Vitamin E and selenium. This underscores the fact that providing isolated antioxidant nutrients doesn't work. Such nutrients are never found alone in natural food sources, and for a good reason. When an antioxidant neutralizes a free radical (which are the actual causes of cancer and other diseases), they donate an electron to the unpaired electron that is a free radical. While this stabilizes the free radical, it now converts the previous antioxidant nutrient into a free radical itself, which can then attack cell membranes. But if other antioxidants are present, such as coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, or lipoic acid, they will donate one of their electrons to stabilize the oxidized vitamin E, thus preventing adverse outcomes. It should be obvious from this why taking isolated antioxidant nutrients is just plain stupid; that's not they way nature designed them, and it's an unnatural way to ingest them. Yet, even when only two antioxidants were ingested in tandem, namely E and selenium, all of the adverse effects on the prostate allegedly induced by E alone didn't occur--which proves my point.
    The greatest danger with these types of studies is that people will become frightened of using nutrient supplements. This will not only lead to horrific health outcomes, since most people don't eat correctly and need certain supplements to stay healthy, but will also fuel the efforts of the pharmaceutical industry to have most nutrients classified as either prescription items, or sold only in doses too small to have any significant effect on preventive health. If that occurs, the real health crisis will soon become evident.

©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited. 

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