FDA guidelines and faulty research obscure vitamin E’s true healing potential

New stories are sounding off in the medical and the mainstream media about some important topics for your health. When heard in isolation, they sound only like random gun blasts popping off in the distance. But when you listen to them together they often carry a tune.

This situation is particularly true when it comes to vitamin E.

Last month, I reported on how the new FDA dietary supplement labeling guidelines could be a disaster for anyone who values good health (see the article “BEWARE the FDA ‘s latest plan to ‘help’ dietary supplement consumers” in the June 2014 issue of Insiders’ Cures.)

And in the case of vitamin E, these guidelines simply serve to perpetuate (and perpetrate on an unsuspecting public) mainstream medicine’s failure to understand what this essential nutrient really is and how it really works.

This persistent ignorance also allows the mainstream to mount renewed attacks on vitamin E. One of the most ridiculous is a new report that this nutritional powerhouse supposedly contributes to prostate cancer risk. I’ll talk more about this misunderstanding in just a moment. And I’ll also share some new research on vitamin E’s role in brain health—about which mainstream medicine remains absolutely clueless.

Before I get to that, it’s important to note that when it comes to vitamin E, the toxic trifecta of the FDA, mainstream medicine, and big pharma have come together in a perfect storm of nutritional ignorance. And, as usual, it is honest, taxpaying citizens who are at risk of being abandoned at sea.

But, today I’ll throw you the life preservers, launch the life boats, and together we’ll set sail on a new course out of these stormy seas.

E-rroneous FDA

First of all, the FDA still needs a lot of lessons in the basic science of human diet, nutrition, and dietary supplementation. As you know, they are way off base with their new rules regarding folate (vitamin B9) and other key nutrients (again, see the article “BEWARE the FDA ‘s latest plan to ‘help’ dietary supplement consumers” in last month’s issue of Insiders’ Cures*).

But vitamin E remains a fundamental problem for them—and consequently for you.

There are eight different active compounds that make up vitamin E—four tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma) and four tocotrienols (also called alpha, beta, delta, and gamma). But “it’s all Greek” (literally) to the boys in the FDA fraternity. They don’t even recognize seven of these vitamin E compounds.

According to the FDA, the only “active” vitamin E compound  is alpha-tocopherol.

This nutrient is the so-called vitamin E that is most often used in studies. But considering that vitamin E you get from foods, like nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli, contains all eight active compounds, why would you trust any study that only uses one of those compounds?

And yet, that’s exactly what happened recently. Researchers reported that taking an “FDA-approved” synthetic alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E appeared to slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer.1

Since the body normally consumes natural mixtures of all eight forms of vitamin E, giving only synthetic alpha-tocopherol in a study creates a completely unnatural, unbalanced set of nutritional circumstances.

Thirty years ago, the world witnessed (as I had warned in advance) how giving an isolated, synthetic beta-carotene capsule (without the normal, natural mixtures of all carotenoids in foods) actually increased the risk of lung cancer among people at higher risk. (You can read more about this story in the special report Classified Cancer Answers.*) Now history appears to be repeating itself with vitamin E and prostate cancer.

This approach employs the kind of ill logic that Seattle researchers used last year when they associated fish oil with prostate cancer risk in men. (A ridiculous conclusion I thoroughly debunked in the October 2013 issue of Insiders’ Cures.) And now the infamous VITAL study is trying to do the same thing with fish oil and endometrial cancer in women.2

Like this new vitamin E/prostate cancer study, both of these trials failed to pay attention to important details. And, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

The real conclusion the vitamin E researchers should have found is that ingesting an artificial, incomplete, isolated, unbalanced, and unnatural form of vitamin E may actually disrupt the nutrient metabolism that helps the body fight prostate cancer.

But this finding isn’t the only way the FDA’s vitamin E ignorance is failing your health…

The sum of its parts

The FDA’s sole focus on alpha tocopherol also ignores all the tocotrienols. But these vitamin E compounds actually appear to be more mobile in the body among cells and to have greater benefits.

In fact, reams of research show that vitamin E tocotrienols  are among the most important nutrients for preventing everything from cancer to dementia. And gamma-tocotrienol may actually be the single most important form of vitamin E for health. But you won’t hear that from the FDA.

Instead, along with all the other tocotrienols, this form is totally ignored by the FDA and considered to be completely “inactive.”

Meanwhile, researchers have found that people who have high levels of tocotrienols in their blood have a lower risk of cognitive impairment—including Alzheimer’s disease.3

And a new study shows that a daily dose of 2,000 IU of natural mixed vitamin E slows progression of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease by 20 percent a year. (A level which has struck some awestruck observers as “high”—but only because RDA’s are so ridiculously low to begin with.) Meanwhile, the study participants who took FDA-approved Alzheimer’s drugs not only got no benefits, but actually had higher incidences of serious side effects like infections.And taking the drug actually appeared to negate the benefits of taking vitamin E.

Tocotrienols also appear to help prevent cancer (including prostate cancer), as well as cardiovascular disease.5,6

So what have we learned from today’s tour through vitamin E, nutrition, and brain and prostate health? All it takes is some real knowledge of human diet and nutrition to make sense of the isolated bits and pieces from today’s often incoherent medical research.

Just don’t look to the FDA or the mainstream government-industrial-medical complex to provide that knowledge or guidance.


Real prostate protection—straight from the supermarket

For decades, the government-industrial-medical complex has been spending millions of taxpayer dollars to study isolated, synthetic, incomplete, nutrients for prostate health in men.  Meanwhile, there is plenty of impressive evidence that already exists for the role of saw palmetto, stinging nettle, and zinc in prostate health. And of course, there’s also lycopene—a carotenoid that really does work.

In fact, I was part of the research team that discovered the importance of lycopene in human metabolism and nutrition in the mid-1980s—while the National Cancer Institute was busy barking up the beta-carotene tree.

Lycopene is the carotenoid pigment responsible for the red and pink colors in tomatoes, grapefruit, guava, and watermelon.  My own early studies showed that lycopene is most bioavailable when consumed in a cooked, concentrated form, such as ketchup, tomato sauce or tomato paste (as compared to eating raw fruits or tomatoes)].  This observation has since been confirmed by multiple studies.

Both blood and tissue levels of lycopene are lower in men with aggressive prostate cancer compared to those with less aggressive, “occult” forms of prostate neoplasia.

Of course, I have pointed out before that these less aggressive cases should not even be classified as “cancer” at all. In fact, they are a major contributor to over diagnosis and overtreatment in today’s cancer industry (see the Daily DispatchOverdiagnosis can become a bigger problem than some cancers”*).

But the bottom line is that lycopene protects against real prostate cancer.


1Kristal AR, et al. Baseline Selenium Status and Effects of Selenium and Vitamin E Supplementation on Prostate Cancer Risk. djt456 doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt456.

2 Brasky TM, et al. “Associations of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and fish intake with endometrial cancer risk in the VITamins And Lifestyle cohort.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):599-608

3 Mangialaschea F, et al. Serum levels of vitamin E forms and risk of cognitive impairment in a Finnish cohort of older adults. Experimental Gerontology

Volume 48, Issue 12, December 2013, Pages 1428–1435.

4 Dysken MW, et al. Effect of Vitamin E and Memantine on Functional Decline in Alzheimer Disease: The TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2014;311(1):33-44. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.282834.

5 Kannappan R, et al. Tocotrienols fight cancer by targeting multiple cell signaling pathways. Genes Nutr. Jan 2012; 7(1): 43–52.

6 Prasad K. Tocotrienols and cardiovascular health. Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(21):2147-54.