Vitamin E to Fight Cancer: Food, not Supplements

In this week’s Cancer Research Update, you can read about the latest results from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), a study looking at whether supplements of these nutrients might help reduce risk of prostate cancer.

What is vitamin E and what does it do in the body that made researchers think it might help lower risk for cancer?

Vitamin E is an antioxidant – that means it can protect our cells from being damaged by “free radicals.” Free radicals are unstable, high-energy molecules; some of these are a by-product of our own metabolism. We are also exposed to free radicals from cigarette smoke, air pollution and UV light from the sun.

Antioxidants such as vitamins E and C can help keep these molecules from damaging our cells. That’s why researchers are looking at whether supplements of these vitamins and other plant compounds (phytochemicals) could help lower risk for cancer and other chronic diseases associated with free radicals.

Fortunately you can get vitamin E in your diet through nuts, seeds and vegetable oils – and there’s some in green leafy vegetables. As discussed in the CRU article, it is possible that the antioxidant work that vitamin E and other phytochemicals do is dependent on other substances in the whole food. If you just take the supplement, it may not be able to work in the same way as it does coming from food.

You can get a whole array of antioxidants and other health promoting substances in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Although we don’t yet know exactly how they all work together in the body, we do know that eating a variety of plant foods with minimal processing in amounts right for you can provide nutrients you need and help you get to and stay a healthy weight. A great start to overall good health and reducing your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.

The RDA for adults for vitamin E is 15 mg. Here’s a listing of some foods that contain vitamin E:

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol) [7

Food

Milligrams (mg)
per serving

Percent DV*

Wheat germ oil, 1 tablespoon

20.3

100

Sunflower seeds, dry roasted, 1 ounce

7.4

37

Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce

6.8

34

Sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon

5.6

28

Safflower oil, 1 tablespoon

4.6

25

Hazelnuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce

4.3

22

Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons

2.9

15

Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce

2.2

11

Corn oil, 1 tablespoon

1.9

10

Spinach, boiled, ½ cup

1.9

10

Broccoli, chopped, boiled, ½ cup

1.2

6

Soybean oil, 1 tablespoon

1.1

6

Kiwifruit, 1 medium

1.1

6

Mango, sliced, ½ cup

0.7

4

Tomato, raw, 1 medium

0.7

4

Spinach, raw, 1 cup

0.6

4

From: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VITAMINE


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