There has been a lot written about Vitamin E and its effects in the last two years, some of it negative. Here's some new research conducted at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, one of Israel's top research schools. In this case, researchers found that Vitamin E supplements can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and related deaths for diabetics who carry a particular version of a gene.
After 18 months of treatment, people with the haptoglobin (Hp) 2-2 gene who took 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin E daily had more than 50 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes, and related deaths than Hp 2-2 patients who took a placebo pill. The full study appears online in the November 21 edition of the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.
This isn't unimportant news for diabetics -- a full 40% of individuals with diabetes carry the Hp 2-2 gene. These researchers discovered that diabetic patients with Hp 2-2 are two-to-three times more likely than other diabetics to suffer a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack.
"Genetic testing for the Hp 2-2 gene may be useful to identify a large group of diabetes individuals who could potentially derive cardiovascular benefit from a very inexpensive treatment," said the lead author. A commercial test is available for diabetics to determine if they have this gene variant; an even less expensive ($30 USD) diagnostic kit is planned for the near future from the biotech company, Synvista Therapeutics, which owns a patent on the use of Hp testing to predict diabetic complications.
There was a significant difference seen in the reduced number of heart attacks among those taking vitamin E in this study. In the group of 1,434 Hp 2-2 individuals taking part, seven people had a heart attack -- compared to 17 who did not take the vitamin. Dr. Andrew Levy, of the Technion Faculty of Medicine, said there were no side effects observed in patients who took vitamin E.
The finding is a new answer to an old question: can antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E help prevent heart disease? Previously, cardiologists routinely prescribed vitamin E for their patients, but the practice has dwindled as several major studies in the past decade showed no heart-protective effects and potential harm from vitamin E mega-doses. (Many of those trials were discounted by experts because of dosage or study errors).
In this case, it is clear that Vitamin E has a great benefit to a certain percentage of those with diabetes.