Feinberg study compares vitamin E effect on lung function

Amulya Yalamanchili, Reporter

A new study from the Feinberg School of Medicine suggests that different forms of vitamin E found in common cooking oils affect lung function differently.

The study found one form of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol, may improve lung function. Alpha-tocopherol is found in such oils as olive oil and sunflower oil.

Meanwhile, the “bad” form of vitamin E, gamma-tocopherol, is found in oils such as soybean oil, corn oil and canola oil. This form of the vitamin may contribute to the rising incidence of lung inflammation. Due to a high dietary intake of the latter oils, levels of gamma-tocopherol are significantly higher in American adults than in adults from other countries.

The study analyzed data from more than 4,500 participants over a span of 20 years from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. Participants were from four centers: Chicago; Minneapolis; Birmingham, Alabama and Oakland, California.

Feinberg Prof. Joan Cook-Mills, who specializes in allergy and immunology, was the senior author of the study, which was published in Respiratory Research in March.

“Blood levels of gamma-tocopherol and alpha-tocopherol were measured,” Cook-Mills said. “That includes how much was acquired from all different sources, whether it was supplement or diet.”

The two forms of vitamin E affect lung inflammation differently because gamma-tocopherol, the “bad” form, increases white blood cell activity which contributes to the body’s inflammatory response, while alpha-tocopherol inhibits the response.

Cook-Mills said the study only found a correlation between the vitamin E levels and lung function, but does not prove that one causes the other.

“What needs to be done next is intervention studies to determine whether altering gamma-tocopherol levels and supplementation of alpha-tocopherol are beneficial for inflammation,” she said.

Cook-Mills said she is currently expanding upon the results of this study by working on a new intervention study, which allows her to manipulate factors rather than only observing data. She will also explore the effects of the different forms of tocopherol on development.

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