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Vitamin E may help prevent diabetes

KUOPIO, FINLAND. Several epidemiologic studies have shown that dietary antioxidants may help protect against the development of type 2 diabetes. Finnish researchers now confirm these findings with the results of a major, long-term study. The study involved 2285 men and 2019 women between the ages of 40 and 69 years at the beginning of the study in 1967-72. The participants were free of diabetes at baseline. During a 23-year follow-up period 164 men (0.3%/year) and 219 women (0.5%/year) developed type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that men and women with the highest intake of vitamin E (more than 11 IU/day) had a 31% lower risk of developing diabetes than did participants with an intake below 8 IU/day (5.5 mg/day). Alpha-tocopherol (the common vitamin E form) afforded the best protection at 34% risk reduction, but gamma- and delta-tocopherol as well as beta-tocotrienol also offered good protection. The carotene beta- cryptoxanthin was found to be especially protective with a risk reduction of 42% at a daily intake of more than 4.18 mcg/day as compared to the lowest intake of less than 0.24 mcg/day. No protective effects were observed with vitamin C intakes in the 90 mg/day range.
Montonen, J, et al. Dietary antioxidant intake and risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, Vol. 27, February 2004, pp. 362-66

Editor's comment: It is interesting that the average vitamin E intake in this cohort of 4300 men and women was 8.7 IU/day and that the highest intake was about 11 IU/day. Considering that the current RDA for vitamin E is 22 IU/day (15 mg/day) it would appear that upwards of 90% of the sample population were vitamin E deficient. It is tempting to speculate that supplementation with vitamin E could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes very substantially.

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