Comparing studies of vitamin E can be confusing. Some seem to show that vitamin E helps prevent cancer. Other studies show that it may make the disease worse. The root of the problem: The term “vitamin E” encompasses a group of nutrients. Each has a different effect on the body.
“There are studies suggesting that vitamin E actually increases the risk of cancer and decreases bone density,” says Chung S. Yang, director of the Center for Cancer Prevention Research at Rutgers Mario School of Pharmacy. “Our message is that the vitamin E form of gamma-tocopherols, the most abundant form of vitamin E in the American diet, and delta-tocopherols, also found in vegetable oils, are beneficial in preventing cancers while the form of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol, the most commonly used in vitamin E supplements, has no such benefit.”
“For people who think that they need to take vitamin E supplements,” Yang says, “taking a mixture of vitamin E that resembles what is in our diet would be the most prudent supplement to take.”
Yang recommends taking gamma- and delta-tocopherols if you want to take vitamin E supplements.