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Vitamin E and Health

Vitamin E and Health
Reported by
Karen Hopkin

Posted October 13, 2009

Presented By

New York Academy of Sciences


What role does vitamin E play in human health and disease? On May 22-24, 2004, some 150 experts tackled this puzzle at a New York Academy of Sciences conference. The meeting covered a variety of topics, from the basic biology of vitamin E to clinical studies of its effectiveness in thwarting disease:

  • Session I: how humans obtain, metabolize, and absorb vitamin E;
  • Session II: how vitamin E controls the production of key cell signaling molecules;
  • Session III: how vitamin E regulates the activity of genes;
  • Session IV: how vitamin E protects the body from oxidative stress;
  • Session V: the role that vitamin E plays in inflammation;
  • Session VI: how vitamin E can prevent illness, including respiratory infection and Alzheimer's disease; and
  • Session VII: the results of clinical trials and observational studies that examine vitamin E's role in cardiovascular disease.

Finally, Session VIII turned to future directions, with a pair of roundtable discussions. Two panels of eminent researchers engaged participants in in-depth analysis of the important issues addressed during the entire conference.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.

Multimedia available from:

Frank J. Kelly (King's College London)
Achim Stocker (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
John K. Lodge (University of Surrey)
John F. Keaney, Jr. (Boston University School of Medicine)
Angelo Azzi (University of Bern)
Joseph Lunec (University of Leicester)
Iswarlal Jialal (University of California, Davis)
Lucilla Poston (King's College, London/St. Thomas' Hospital, London)
Anatol Kontush (INSERM, Hôpital Pitié-Salpetrière, Paris)
Mohsen Meydani (Tufts University)
J. Michael Gaziano, (Brigham and Women's Hospital)
and audio from two roundtable discussions


Cognis Nutrition and Health

BASF Aktiengesellschaft

For a complete list of sponsors, please click the Sponsorship tab above.

Web Sites

Facts about Vitamin E
Useful FAQs from the National Institutes of Health.

Micronutrient Information Center
From the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, a quick rundown of vitamin E's function and role in disease.

Consumer Lab: Vitamin E
Tests of commercially available supplements, with a summary as well of the vitamin's role in nutrition and cell integrity.

Berkeley Wellness Guide
A summary of clinical trials, with recommendations for the public.
A quick review of the literature, in relation to diseases and symptoms.


Arita, M., Y. Sato, A. Miyata et al. 1995. Human alpha-tocopherol transfer protein: cDNA cloning, expression and chromosomal localization. Biochem. J. 306: 437-443.

Campbell, S. E., W. L. Stone, S. G. Whaley et al. 2003. Gamma tocopherol upregulates peroxisome proliferator activated receptor (PPAR) gamma expression in SW 480 human colon cancer cell lines. BMC Cancer 3: 25. Full Text

Campbell, S., W. Stone, S. Whaley & K. Krishnan. 2003. Development of gamma-tocopherol as a colorectal cancer chemopreventive agent. Crit. Rev. Oncol. Hematol. 47: 249-259.

Cavalier, L., K. Ouahchi, H. Kayden et al. 1998. Ataxia with isolated vitamin E deficiency: heterogeneity of mutations and phenotypic variability in a large number of families. Am. J. Hum. Gen. 62: 301-310.

Clark, L. C., G. F. Combs, Jr., B. W. Turnbull et al. 1996. Effects of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin: a randomized controlled trial. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 276: 1957-1963.

Eisengart, A., A.. T. Milhorat, E. J. Simon & L. Sundheim. 1956. The metabolism of vitamin E, II: purification and characterization of urinary metabolites of alpha-tocopherol. J. Biol. Chem. 221: 807-817.

Evans, H. M., & K. S. Bishop. 1922. On the existence of a hitherto unrecognized dietary factor essential for reproduction. Science 56: 650.

Ferreira, P. R., J. F. Fleck, A. Diehl et al. 2004. Protective effect of alpha-tocopherol in head and neck cancer radiation-induced mucositis: a double-blind randomized trial. Head Neck 26: 313-321.

Gao, R., W. L. Stone, T. Huang et al. 2002. The uptake of tocopherols by RAW 264.7 macrophages. Nutr. J. 15: 2. Full Text

Gohil, K., B. C. Schock, A. A. Chakraborty et al. 2003. Gene expression profile of oxidant stress and neurodegeneration in transgenic mice deficient in alpha-tocopherol transfer protein. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 35: 1343-1354.

Heinonen, O. P., D. Albanes, J. K. Huttunen et al. 1998. Prostate cancer and supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene: incidence and mortality in a controlled trial. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 90: 440-446.

Jialal, I., & S. Devaraj. 2003. Antioxidants and atherosclerosis: don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Circulation 107: 926-928.

Khanna, S., S. Roy, H. Ryu et al. 2003. Molecular basis of vitamin E action: tocotrienol modulates 12-lipoxygenase, a key mediator of glutamate-induced neurodegeneration. J. Biol. Chem. 278: 43508-43515. Full Text

Klein, E. A., I. M. Thompson, S. M. Lippman et al. 2003. The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention trial. World J. Urol. 21: 21-27.

Kumar, R. K., K. N. Edwards & G. Bury. 2000. Haemolytic anaemia secondary to vitamin E deficiency in premature infants. Indian J. Pediatr. 67: 537-538.

Miller, E. R., R. Pastor-Barriuso, D. Dalal et al. 2005. Meta-analysis: high-dosage vitamin E supplementation may increase all-cause mortality. Ann. Internal Med. 142 (in press). Full Text

Munteanu, A., J. M. Zingg & A. Azzi. 2004. Anti-atherosclerotic effects of vitamin E: myth or reality? J. Cell. Mol. Med. 8: 59-76. Full Text

Paul, R., S. G. Zhang, B. P. Eliceiri et al. 2001. Src deficiency or blockade of Src activity in mice provides cerebral protection following stroke. Nature Med. 7: 222-227.

Ricciarelli, R., A. Tasinato, S. Clement et al. 1998. alpha-Tocopherol specifically inactivates cellular protein kinase C alpha by changing its phosphorylation state. Biochem. J. 334: 243-249.

Rimbach, G., A. M. Minihane, J. Majewicz et al. 2002. Regulation of cell signalling by vitamin E. Prog. Nutr. Soc. 61: 415-425.

Roxborough, H. E., G. W. Burton & F. J. Kelly. 2000. Inter- and intra-individual variation in plasma and red blood cell vitamin E after supplementation. Free Radic. Res. 33: 437-445.

Roy S., B. H. Lado, S. Khanna & C. K. Sen. 2000. Vitamin E sensitive genes in the developing rat fetal brain: a high-density oligonucleotide microarray analysis. FEBS Lett. 530: 17-23.

Salonen, R. M., K. Nyyssonen, J. Kaikkonen et al. 2003. Six-year effect of combined vitamin C and E supplementation on atherosclerotic progression: the Antioxidant Supplementation in Atherosclerosis Prevention study. Circulation 107: 947-953. Full Text

Schultz, M., M. Leist, M. Petrzika et al. 1995. Novel urinary metabolite of alpha-tocopherol, 2,5,7,8-tetramethyl-2(2'-carboxyethyl)-6-hydroxychroman, as an indicator of an adequate vitamin E supply? Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 62: 1527S-1534S.

ScienceDaily news. 2003. Early Vitamin E supplements stem development of hallmark Alzheimer's symptoms in mice. ScienceDaily (Mar 26). Full Text

Sen, C. K., S. Khanna, S. Roy & L. Packer. 2000. Molecular basis of vitamin E action: tocotrienol potently inhibits glutamate-induced pp60(c-Src) kinase activation and death of HT4 neuronal cells. J. Biol. Chem. 275: 13049-13055. Full Text

Stocker, A., S. Zimmer, S. E. Spycher & A. Azzi. 1999. Identification of a novel cytosolic tocopherol-binding protein: structure, specificity, and tissue distribution. IUBMB Life 48: 49-55.

Tappel, A. L. 1965. Free-radical lipid peroxidation damage and its inhibition by vitamin E and selenium. Fed. Proc. 24: 73.


Abelson, John, Melvin Simon & Helmut Sies. 1995. Biothiols, Part A: Monothiols and Dithiols, Protein Thiols, and Thiyl Radicals. Academic Press, New York.

Azzi, Angelo, Zdenek Drahota & Sergio Papa, Eds. 1989. Molecular Basis of Membrane-Associated Diseases. Springer, New York.

Cadenas, Enrique, & Lester Packer, Eds. 2001. Handbook of Antioxidants. Dekker, New York.

Cadenas, Enrique, & Lester Packer, Eds. 1999. Understanding the Process of Aging: The Roles of Mitochondria, Free Radicals, and Antioxidants. Dekker, New York.

Fuchs, Jurgen, Maurizio Podda & Lester Packer, Eds. 2003. Redox-Genome Interactions in Health and Disease: Oxidative Stress and Disease. Dekker, New York.

Keaney, John F., Jr. 2000. Oxidative Stress and Vascular Disease. Kluwer, New York.

Kotsonis, Frank N., & Maureen Mackey, Eds. 2001. Nutritional Toxicology. Taylor & Francis, London.

Krinsky, Norman I., Ed. 2000. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. Full Text

Manson, Joann E., Julie Buring, Paul Ridker & Michael Gaziano, Eds. 2004. Clinical Trials in Heart Disease: A Companion to Braunwald's Heart Disease. Saunders, Philadelphia.

Nesaretnam, Kalanithi, & Lester Packer, Eds. 2001. Micronutrients and Health: Molecular Biological Mechanisms. American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL.

Packer, Lester, & Carol Coleman. 1999. The Antioxidant Miracle: Put Lipoic Acid, Pycogenol, and Vitamins E and C to Work for You. Wiley, New York.

Packer, Lester, & Kim Fahner. 2003. Antioxidants: Vitamins C and E for Health. American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL.

Packer, Lester, & Jürgen Fuchs, Eds. 1992. Vitamin E in Health and Disease. Dekker, New York.

Packer, Lester, Midori Hiramatsu & Toshikazu Yoshikawa. 1999. Antioxidant Food Supplements in Human Health. Academic Press, New York.

Packer, Lester, & Augustine S. H. Ong, Eds. 1998. Biological Oxidants and Antioxidants: Molecular Mechanisms and Health Effects. American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL.

Packer, Lester, Maret G. Traber & Wenjuan Xin, Eds. 1996. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Natural Antioxidants: Molecular Mechanisms and Health Effects. American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL.

Packer, Lester, Peter Rosen & Hans J. Tritschler, Eds. 2000. Antioxidants in Diabetes Management. Dekker, New York.

Poli, Giuseppe, Enrique Cadenas & Lester Packer, Eds. 2000. Free Radicals in Brain Pathophysiology. Dekker, New York.

Sen, Chandan, Lester Packer, & Patrick Baeuerle. 2000. Antioxidant and Redox Regulation of Genes. Academic Press, New York.

Sen, Chandan K., Lester Packer, Osmo O. P. Hanninen et al., Eds. 2000. Handbook of Oxidants and Antioxidants in Exercise. Elsevier, New York.

Sies, Helmut, J. Thomas August, M. W. Anders et al., Eds. 1997. Advances in Pharmacology. Academic Press, New York.

Thiele, Jens, & Peter Elsner. 2001. Oxidants and Antioxidants in Cutaneous Biology, Current Problems in Dermatology, Vol. 29. Karger, Basel.

Willet, Walter. 1998. Nutritional Epidemiology. Oxford University Press, New York.

Conference Organizers

Frank J. Kelly, PhD

School of Health and Life Sciences
King's College, London

Frank Kelly holds the chair in environmental health at King's College, London, and is director of the environmental research group. From these dual positions he is able to combine his two main research interests—free radical/antioxidant biochemistry and the impact of atmospheric pollution on human health. Over the last 15 years his lung biology group has focused on working with a number of patient groups including preterm babies, asthmatics, heart disease patients, lung transplant recipients, and cystic fibrosis patients. Many of these studies have resulted in important findings concerning antioxidant status in heart disease and pre-eclampsia.

Kelly, who received his PhD from Queens University, Belfast, is interested in developing new approaches to investigate oxidative stress in humans. These include examining antioxidant biokinetics through the use of stable isotopes and using the lungs' extracellular antioxidant defense network to access the toxicity of air pollutants. Other interests in this area relate to understanding the basis of why some apparently healthy subjects are particularly susceptible to air pollution. Kelly has held several positions in learned societies and is currently the president of the Society for Free Radical Research in Europe.

Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD

Vascular Biology Program
Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center
Tufts University

Mohsen Meydani is professor of nutrition at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and director of the university's vascular biology laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center. He conducts research in the area of dietary antioxidants and oxidative stress in vascular function and aging, with a focus on the role of vitamin E in nutrition, aging, age-associated diseases. He also studies the role and molecular mechanisms of oxidants and antioxidants—including vitamin E, carotenoids, and polyphenols—on immune-endothelial cell interactions and the modulation of angiogenesis, as they relate to the development of atherosclerosis and cancer. In 1996 he was recognized for outstanding achievement among the Tufts faculty.

Meydani received his DVM from the University of Tehran and a PhD in nutrition from Iowa State University. He is the recipient of the 1993 Japan National Food Research Institute Award for a foreign specialist and the USDA Manuscript of the Year award for 1990 and 1991. He has served as president of American Aging Association, on the Antioxidant Advisory Panel of the Alliance for Aging Research, and on grant review committees for the National Institute on Aging, the National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Currently he serves on the board of directors of the American Aging Association and the New England Free Radical/Oxygen Society (NEFROS). He is an associate editor of AGE: The Journal of the American Aging Association and a member of the editorial boards of Journal of Nutrition and Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine.

Lester Packer, PhD

Health Sciences Center
University of Southern California

Lester Packer, currently adjunct professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Southern California Health Sciences Center, is one of the world's leading researchers on antioxidants. Research conducted in his laboratory has led to the discovery of the redox antioxidant network. A current focus is nutritional genomics of antioxidants in regulation of gene expression in cells and tissues using high density oligonucleotide microarray techniques. These investigations are leading to an entirely new and broader understanding of how biological antioxidants work and are important in health and disease.

From 1960 to 2000 Packer served in various research and professorial capacities at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1989 his laboratory discovered that α-lipoic acid was the most potent antioxidant known and could serve as a driving force in the antioxidant network. His studies have also elucidated the antioxidant properties of tocopherols and tocotrienols—the stereoisomers of vitamin E, carotenoids, ubiquinones (co-enzyme Q), and bioflavanoids, including bioflavanoid rich botanical extracts as gingko biloba (EGb 761) and pine bark (pycnogenol). The lab's research also led to a fundamental new understanding of how free radicals and antioxidants are important in protecting human skin against exposure to ultraviolet irradiation and ozone.

Packer has edited more than 80 books, authored over 800 articles, is a member of eight professional societies and seven editorial boards of scientific journals, and has organized numerous conferences in the area of his research interests. He is the founder and honorary president of the Oxygen Club of California (OCC), past president of the Society for Free Radical Research International, and until 2001 vice president of UNESCO's Global Network on Molecular and Cell Biology. His numerous awards include three honorary doctoral degrees. He earned his PhD in microbiology and biochemistry from Yale University in 1956.

Angelo Azzi, MD

Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Bern
email | web site | publications

Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD

Tufts University
email | web site | publications

Regina Brigelius-Flohé, PhD

German Institute of Human Nutrition
email | publications

Swarna Ekanayake Mudiyanselage, MD

Department of Dermatology
Northwestern University
email | publications

J. Michael Gaziano, MD, MPH

Division of Aging
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston
email | web site | publications

Kishorchandra Gohil, PhD

Department of Internal Medicine
University of California, Davis
email | web site | publications

Sung Nim Han, PhD, RD

Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging
Tufts University
email | web site | publications

Regine Heller, MD

Department of Molecular Cell Biology
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
email | publications

Malcolm J. Jackson, PhD, FRCPath

Department of Medicine
University of Liverpool
email | web site | publications

Ishwarlal Jialal, MD, PhD

Medical Center
University of California, Davis
email | publications

Nesrin Kartal-Özer, PhD

Marmara University, Istanbul
email | publications

John F. Keaney, Jr., MD

Boston University School of Medicine
email | web site | publications

Frank J. Kelly, PhD

School of Health and Life Sciences
King's College, London
email | web site | publications

George L. King, MD

Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston
email | web site | publications

Eric A. Klein, MD

Section of Urologic Oncology
Glickman Urological Institute, Cleveland
email | web site | publications

Anatol Kontush, PhD

Hôpital Pitié-Salpetrière, Paris
email | publications

Klaus Kraemer, PhD

BASF Aktiengesellschaft, Germany
email | publications

John K. Lodge, PhD

School of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences
University of Surrey
email | web site | publications

Joseph Lunec, PhD, DSc, FRCP

Genome Instability Group
University of Leicester
email | web site | publications

Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD

Vascular Biology Program
Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging
Tufts University
email | web site | publications

Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD

Nutritional Immunology Laboratory
Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging
Tufts University
email | web site | publications

David P. R. Muller, PhD

Institute of Child Health
University College, London
email | web site | publications

Kalanithi Nesaretnam, PhD

Malaysian Palm Oil Board
email | publications

Etsuo Niki, PhD

Human Stress Signal Research Center
National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, Osaka
email | publications

Ute Obermüller-Jevic, PhD

BASF Aktiengesellschaft, Germany
email | publications

Lester Packer, PhD

Health Sciences Center
University of Southern California
email | publications

Robert S. Parker, PhD

Department of Nutritional Sciences
Cornell University
email | web site | publications

Sampath Parthasarathy, PhD

Health Science Center
Louisiana State University
email | web site | publications

Lucilla Poston, PhD

Maternal and Fetal Research Unit
King's College, London /
St. Thomas' Hospital, London
email | web site | publications

Gerald Rimbach, PhD

Institute of Human Nutrition and Food Science
Christian Albrechts University
email | web site | publications

Chandan K. Sen, PhD

Laboratory of Molecular Medicine
Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute
Ohio State University Medical Center
email | publications

Helmut Sies, MD, PhD

University of Dusseldorf
email | publications

Achim Stocker, PhD

Institute of Microbiology
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich
email | publications

Roland Stocker, PhD

Centre for Vascular Research
University of New South Wales
email | web site | publications

William L. Stone, PhD

Department of Pediatrics
James H. Quillen College of Medicine
East Tennessee State University
email | web site | publications

Maret G. Traber, PhD

Linus Pauling Institute
Oregon State University
email | web site | publications

Govind T. Vatassery, PhD

V.A. Medical Center, Minneapolis
email | publications

Francesco Violi, MD

Divisione di Clinica Medica
University La Sapienza, Rome
email | publications

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH

Harvard School of Public Health
email | web site | publications