Vitamin E and Cancer

Promising research results

Vitamin E and Cancer

A spinach salad with avocado, toasted almonds, and asparagus spears makes a delicious lunch. But this powerful meal could also help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.

A recent study from the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center found that ingesting more vitamin E lowers the rate of developing lung cancer by up to 53 percent.

Improve lung health

Researchers tracked 1,088 lung cancer patients and 1,414 healthy participants and found that those whose diets contained the highest levels of vitamin E were significantly less likely to have lung cancer.

The highest average daily intake of alpha-tocopherol, the most bioavailable form of vitamin E, was 7.73 mg per day, while the lowest was 4.13 mg. The study accounted for lifestyle and demographic factors such as cigarette smoking.

Add vitamin E to your next meal

Vitamin E is an antioxidant which is said to protect cells against the damaging effects of free radicals, the natural byproducts of metabolism in the body. Seeds, nuts, vegetable and fish oils, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach are rich in vitamin E.

To increase vitamin E intake, try adding one ounce of dry roasted almonds (containing 7.4 mg of alpha-tocopherol or one tablespoon of wheat germ oil (containing a whopping 20.3 mg) to your next meal.

Vitamin E can also benefit those who already have cancer. A 2002 study conducted by the Cancer Centre Karolinska, in Stockholm, Sweden, showed that vitamin E helps to slow the disease’s progress and strengthens immune function in patients with colorectal cancer.

Patients were given the supplements for two weeks. It was discovered that the T cells in their bodies produced at least 10 percent more cytokines, crucial proteins to immune response.

Supplement with caution

According to Health Canada, the synthetic form of vitamin E (labelled “dl”) is only half as active in the body as the natural form (labelled “d”). For people over the age of 55 who have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, or those who have had cancer, Health Canada recommends exercising caution when supplementing with vitamin E.

For these patients high doses of vitamin E over a long period of time may actually increase the risk of developing related heart problems or cancers.

The Canadian Cancer Society estimated there were 166,400 new cases of cancer and more than 73,000 cancer-related deaths in 2008. Lung cancer kills more men and women than any other form of cancer, followed by colorectal cancer.

Vitamin E-rich foods

Healthy adults need about 15 mg or 22 IU of natural vitamin E per day. The maximum recommended daily amount of vitamin E is 1,500 IU.

Some of the best vitamin E food sources include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables. Here are some examples:

Food source Measure   Vitamin E
Wheat germ oil  1 Tbsp (15 mL)    30 IU 
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted   1 oz (30 g)  11 IU  
Almonds, dry roasted  1 oz (30g)  11 IU
Sunflower oil 1 Tbsp (15 mL) 8 IU 
Soy beverage  1 cup (250 mL) 5 IU
Tomato sauce, canned  1/2 cup (125 mL)  4 IU 
Canola oil  1 Tbsp (15 mL) 4 IU  
Olive oil   1 Tbsp (15 mL)  3 IU
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup (125 mL)  3 IU 
Broccoli, cooked  1/2 cup (125 mL) 2 IU

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

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