Vitamin E and Breast Cancer
In previous AllStarHealth blogs, we’ve made the point that Vitamin E isn’t really one vitamin, it’s a group of 8 distinct vitamins, all of which have distinct functions and most of which are present when you obtain vitamin E from whole foods. The best vitamin E supplements now reflect this and contain a full range of vitamin E forms, for a full range of vitamin activity and protection. But for decades, most vitamin E supplements have contained just one form, d-alpha-tocopherol, based on the fact that this form is the most abundant in the blood and most body tissues. More recent research has shown that the other forms of vitamin E have their own distinct benefits that don’t apply to a-alpha-tocopherol, including protection from breast cancer according to a recent study.
Turn over your bottle of vitamin E and if it’s like most vitamin E’s, it contains d-alpha-tocopherol, the natural form of vitamin E that established its use in supplements years ago (dl-alpha-tocopherol is a synthetic form of vitamin E). If it’s a good product, the label will also indicate that it contains other tocopherol and tocotrienols, and if if it’s a really good vitamin E, it will provide all 8 forms of vitamin E and specify how much of each is available in each dose. These 8 forms consist of four tocotrienols and four tocopherols, each of which occurs in an alpha, beta, gamma and delta form.
These full spectrum vitamin E’s cost more, but it’s become increasingly clear that these are preferable, as research uncovers more benefits of the less common forms of vitamin E. In fact, some experts have gone farther than that, recommending that people avoid using alpha-tocopherol-only supplements since high amounts of alpha-tocopherol displace some of the other forms with poorly-understood effects.
A recent study seems to again underline the importance of full-spectrum vitamin E supplements. This time, delta and gamma tocopherol, but not alpha tocopherol, were found to protect against one type of breast cancer, in part by antagonizing estrogen at breast cancer cell recepetor sites. This is particularly interesting since gamma tocopherol has also been shown to protect against prostate cancer, in which estrogen may play a developmental role according to some experts.