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Skin, circulation, diabetics

What you should know about vitamin E Part 2

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

For years controversy swirled around the value of vitamin E as a medical tonic. Last week I discussed how some critics condemned its use as the latest version of the old-fashioned snake-oil. But increasing scientific evidence suggests that vitamin E helps to protect us from many medical problems.

Ten years ago it was reported that large doses of vitamin E prevented cataracts in diabetic rats. At a recent meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences researchers revealed that patients who had taken supplementary vitamin E had less chance of developing cataracts.

Another researcher Dr. Sai Ramasastry, a plastic surgeon at Presbyterian-University Hospital in Pittsburgh, has good news for patients with circulatory problems and skin ulcers. He reports that patients with skin grafts who had been given 400 units of vitamin E still had viable grafts 14 months later. But grafts had broken down in six months in those not taking this vitamin.

Doctors at Columbia University in New York reveal that vitamin E and C are helpful in slowing down the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. They found that patients could stay off other drugs normally used to treat their symptoms for an extra 2.5 years.

Vitamin E may be helpful for diabetics, those with high blood fats or a tendency to develop atherosclerosis. The cause of atherosclerosis that sets the stage for heart attack is still unknown. But it’s believed that small blood particles called platelets adhere to the walls of arteries triggering hardening of the vessels. Increased platelet aggregation has been demonstrated in patients with high blood lipids and diabetics. Vitamin E, by stimulating the production of prostacyclin, makes platelets less sticky.

Vitamin E may also increase the body’s immune response. A study of 34 men and women over 60 years of age who had received 800 units of vitamin E a day had an increased immune response compared to others who received a sugar pill.

The $64.00 question has always been how does vitamin E work? Equally important, how does it help so many diverse problems ? Proponents explain that the diseases seem to be totally unrelated on the surface but they do have a common denominator. They exhibit injured or old blood vessels that reduce the supply of oxygen to tissues.

Researchers claim that vitamin E has a triple effect on oxygen starved cells. It increases the circulation, acts as an anticlotting agent and is at the top of the list of physiological agents used to improve the utilization of oxygen by tissues. That’s why rats on vitamin E can run longer on a treadmill than those deficient in this vitamin. And why humans who develop leg cramps while walking or suffer from painful restless legs during the night are often helped by large doses of vitamin E.

Another key to vitamin E’s protective role is it’s antioxidant property.

Every minute of the day our cells are burning oxygen to provide fuel for the body. During this oxidative process free radicals are continuously generated. But they are produced in increasing quantities when there’s a lack of oxygen or exposure to ionizing radiation. Like waste garbage that’s polluting our planet free radicals are believed to be a factor leading to cellular damage and aging. Vitamin E the oldest recognized biologic antioxidant, helps to change these into harmless molecules.

Smokers should take note of this fact. Dr. Garry Duthie of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland says,” Smokers are under more oxidant stress than non-smokers. They are at particular risk for heart disease and cancer, inhale large amounts of potentially reactive free radicals and could possibly benefit from supplementary antioxidants.”

Can increasing our daily intake of vitamin E protect us from an increasingly polluted world? In 1988 a group of researchers reported that the inhalation of ozone, a major component of photochemical smog causes lung injury in rats due to the increase in the lung’s metabolism and the ability of ozone to stimulate the production of free radicals. Feeding the rats vitamin E helped to counteract this problem. They speculated that humans exposed to environmental smog may benefit from the same vitamin E supplementation.

Is it money down the drain if you buy vitamin E? As yet no one has the ultimate answer. Many nutritionists contend that if you’re healthy and eat a balanced diet you don’t need vitamin E. This may be true.

But I lean towards the opinion of Dr. Max K. Horwitt, Professor Emeritus at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. He believes damage to cells within the body occurs before the onset of clinical symptoms. And that supplementary vitamin E is good insurance in the maintenance of good health.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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