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Novartis Found Symp. 2007;282:77-87; discussion 87-92, 212-8.

Vitamin E.

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  • 1Centre for VascularResearch, School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, and Department of Haematology, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.


Vitamin E refers to a family of tocopherol and tocotrienol isomers discovered in 1922 as anti-infertility factor. Vitamin E deficiency causes infertility and delayed-onset ataxia in experimental animals, and it leads to neuronal dysfunctions in humans. However, based largely on its radical-scavenging antioxidant activity in vitro, vitamin E supplements are commonly thought to provide health benefits against diseases associated with oxidative damage, most notably cardiovascular diseases. Contrary to this belief, the outcome of recent large, prospective, randomized and placebo-controlled clinical studies does not encourage the use of vitamin E supplements. These overall disappointing results can be explained and substantiated by scientific data critically testing the strengths of evidence for many of the underlying assumptions and examining the possibility that in vivo vitamin E may have function(s) other than, or in addition to, acting as an antioxidant.

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