Taking Vitamin E for Disease Prevention? Which Isomer?

In an article referenced in the CAS databases available with SciFinder and STN, researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reported their findings on long-term vitamin E or C supplementation and risk of heart attacks and stroke in men:

They found that "neither vitamin E nor vitamin C supplementation reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events" in a group of nearly 15,000 male participants after an average of 8 years of supplementation.  Two weeks earlier, the National Cancer Institute announced that preliminary analysis of data from a large human study indicated that vitamin E does not prevent prostate cancer.1  Based on these discouraging findings, why is it important to continue studying vitamin E for disease prevention?

Participants in these studies were given a form of vitamin E known as alpha-tocopherol.2  While there is significant justification for studying alpha-tocopherol, information in the CAS databases suggests that additional forms of vitamin E should be considered for disease prevention.  In fact, the term "vitamin E" refers to eight natural isomers:



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The following review articles referenced in the CAS databases summarize the literature on gamma-tocopherol, the form of vitamin E most commonly consumed in the typical U.S. diet:

You can use SciFinder or STN to search the CAS databases for additional information about the research of the 2009 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry.  If your organization is enabled to use the web version of SciFinder, you can click the SciFinder links in this article to directly access details of the references.

For additional information, read the recent article in Chemical & Engineering News.

If your organization is enabled to use the web version of SciFinder, you can directly access details for the substances and references listed in this article.  Look for more of these SciFinder links in future CAS - Science Connections articles.

Contributed by
Peter S. Carlton, Ph.D.
CAS Communications


National Cancer Institute Home Page. http://www.cancer.gov (accessed November 12, 2008).

  1. Lippman, S.M.; Goodman, P.J.; Klein, E.A.; Parnes, H.L.; Thompson, I.M., Jr.; Kristal, A.R.; Santella, R.M.; Probstfield, J.L.; Moinpour, C.M.; Albanes, D.; Taylor, P.R.; Minasian, L.M.; Hoque, A.; Thomas, S.M.; Crowley, J.J.; Gaziano, J.M.; Stanford, J.L.; Cook, E.D.; Fleshner, N.E.; Lieber, M.M.; Walther, P.J.; Khuri, F.R.; Karp, D.D.; Schwartz, G.G.; Ford, L.G.; Coltman, C.A., Jr. Designing the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 2005, 97, 94-102.

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