A form of vitamin E (gamma-tocopherol) commonly found in foods may be a useful additional treatment for asthma, according to preliminary research. Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin E has been thought to have potential therapeutic benefits for people with asthma. However, there have been discrepancies in benefits reported for dietary vs. supplemental vitamin E, possibly because the gamma-tocopherol form of the vitamin is often found in food, whereas most supplements contain another form (alpha-tocopherol).
In light of previous research indicating that a gamma-tocopherol supplement might be more effective against asthma than the more common alpha-tocopherol form, NCCCAM-funded researchers from the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and Purdue University investigated the biological activity of a gamma-tocopherol supplement in asthma patients. The researchers gave a daily dose of a vitamin E preparation rich in gamma-tocopherol to 16 volunteers. Eight healthy volunteers and eight volunteers with allergic asthma received one supplement daily during the first week, followed by a week with no treatment, and then two supplements daily for another week. The researchers then examined blood samples to assess the effects on markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. They found similar results for both doses—the vitamin E supplements prevented inflammation and decreased oxidative stress without any adverse health effects.
This research was an initial step in extending previous findings of gamma-tocopherol’s anti-inflammatory effects in animals. Further research on vitamin E in patients with asthma is under way.
Wiser J, Alexis NE, Jiang Q, et al. In vivo gamma-tocopherol supplementation decreases systemic oxidative stress and cytokine responses of human monocytes in normal and asthmatic subjects. Free Radical Biology & Medicine.;45(1):40–49.2008