International Health News

Vitamin E deficiency widespread in the United States

ATLANTA, GEORGIA. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just released the results of a study aimed at determining vitamin E status among Americans. The study involved over 16,000 American men and women aged 18 years or older whose blood serum was analyzed for vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) content. The mean value was 26.8 micromol/L, but varied between 0.65 and 232 micromol/L. A value below 20 micromol/L indicates deficiency. Further analysis showed that 26 per cent of white men and women, 41 per cent of African Americans, and 28 per cent of Mexican Americans were deficient in vitamin E.

The researchers point out that African Americans have a much higher incidence of fatal heart disease (37 per cent higher among men and 63 per cent higher among women) than do whites and speculate that this could be due, at least in part, to a vitamin E deficiency. They also point out that vitamin E deficiencies have been linked to diabetes, immune disorders, AIDS, muscle damage in exercise, Parkinson's disease, eye diseases, and lung and liver diseases.

The researchers speculate that an increased vitamin-E intake among the American population in general and African Americans in particular may have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease mortality. They believe that intake of more than 50 mg (IU) per day may be required and point out that studies showing cardiovascular disease benefits have used daily doses of 400-800 IU. They also suggest that people who have a high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids may benefit from an added vitamin E intake.
Ford, Earl S. and Sowell, Anne. Serum alpha-tocopherol status in the United States population: findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 150, August 1, 1999, pp. 290-300

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