Study: Obese Patients Need More Vitamin E, But Get Less

November 6, 2015

Authors of a new study suggest that many obese patients with metabolic syndrome need more than normal levels of vitamin E but may actually be getting less, which compounds their risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimers, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

In an effort to assess dose-dependent effects of dairy fat and metabolic syndrome (MetS) health status on α-tocopherol pharmacokinetics in plasma and lipoproteins, a team led by researchers from Oregon State University conducted a randomized, crossover, double-blind study of healthy and MetS adults who ingested encapsulated hexadeuterium-labeled (d6)–RRR–α-tocopherol (15 mg) with 240 mL nonfat (0.2 g fat), reduced-fat (4.8 g fat), or whole (7.9 g fat) milk before blood collection at regular intervals for 72 hours.

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Compared with healthy participants, those with MetS had lower baseline plasma α-tocopherol and greater oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL), interleukin (IL)–6, IL-10, and C-reactive protein. Regardless of health status, d6–α-tocopherol bioavailability was unaffected by increasing amounts of dairy fat provided by milk beverages, but MetS participants had lower estimated d6–α-tocopherol absorption than did healthy participants.

In effect, the authors found that obese patients’ tissues are rejecting the intake of some of these lipids, and are rejecting much-needed vitamin E in the process, despite the fact that these tissues are under great oxidative stress due to the individual’s added weight.

“Obviously, improving the diets of obese patients with metabolic syndrome is a high priority,” says Maret Traber, PhD, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and a co-author of the study.

Traber advises primary care practitioners to recommend that these patients “consume more fruits and vegetables, eat nuts and seeds, and replace saturated fats with more good fats like canola or olive oil.”

She also suggests “a multi-vitamin pill that has 100% of the daily value for the 13 known vitamins. Finding one that has vitamin K may be hard, so it’s important to eat green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, for example. Foods that are high in vitamin E include almonds, hazelnuts, and olive oil,” which is why they are included in my recommendations.” 

—Mark McGraw

Mah E, Sapper C, et al. α-Tocopherol bioavailability is lower in adults with metabolic syndrome regardless of dairy fat co-ingestion: a randomized, double-blind, crossover trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015.