Vitamin E and Prostate Cancer

About three to four weeks ago a study was reported the said that taking Vitamin E increased prostate cancer risk. About a year ago there was a study that seemed to show that Vitamin E did not have any value in preventing heart disease. Below is an explanation of the reason why these results may have happened.

Vitamin E and prostate cancer: does the type of vitamin E matter?
by Alan Gaby, MD

In the other study, 35,533 men were randomly assigned to receive 400 IU per day of vitamin E (in the form of alpha-tocopherol) or placebo for an average of 5.5 years, and the men were then followed for a total of approximately 7 years. During that time, the incidence of prostate cancer was significantly higher by 17% in the vitamin E group than in the placebo group.

Although the study was well designed from a technical standpoint, it suffers from an important weakness, in that the type of vitamin E used was not the same as the vitamin E that occurs in food. Vitamin E is found in food in 4 different forms: alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol. However, as is the case with most vitamin E research, the men in this study were given only alpha-tocopherol. Early research suggested that most, if not all, of the biological activity of vitamin E is due to alpha-tocopherol, but it is now known that at least one of the other components-gamma-tocopherol-has important functions. Furthermore, treatment with large doses of alpha-tocopherol has been shown to deplete gamma-tocopherol, potentially upsetting the natural balance of the different forms of vitamin E in the body. “Mixed tocopherols,” on the other hand, a supplement that contains all four types of vitamin E, would not be expected to cause such an imbalance.

In a previous study, both alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol inhibited the growth of human prostate cancer cells in vitro, but gamma-tocopherol was the more potent of the two.3 In another study, higher blood levels of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol were each associated a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, but the protective effect of gamma-tocopherol was greater than that of alpha-tocopherol.4

Clinical trials that used alpha-tocopherol in doses lower than 400 IU per day did not find an adverse effect on prostate cancer incidence. In a double-blind study of male smokers, compared with placebo, supplementation with 50 IU per day for 5-8 years significantly decreased the incidence of prostate cancer by 32%.5 In a double-blind study of male physicians, supplementation with 200 IU per day (400 IU every other day) for 8 years resulted in a nonsignificant 3% decrease in prostate cancer incidence, compared with placebo.6 Thus, the effect of alpha-tocopherol on prostate cancer appears to be dose-related: protective at low doses (50 IU per day), neutral or modestly protective at intermediate doses (200 IU per day), and harmful at high doses (400 IU per day).

The totality of the evidence suggests that alpha-tocopherol has a protective effect against prostate cancer. However, when alpha-tocopherol is given by itself in large doses (such as 400 IU per day or more), it depletes gamma-tocopherol, which could more than negate any beneficial effect that alpha-tocopherol might have. If that is the case, then taking vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols would not be expected to increase prostate cancer risk, and might even help prevent prostate cancer. Further research is needed to examine that possibility.


How to supercharge your prostate formula

from Robert J. Rowen, MD


If you’re taking a prostate formula to prevent prostate enlargement or cancer, good for you! But what if I told you there’s a simple way to supercharge your prostate formula and make it work substantially better? Interested?

Well, I’ve just discovered another possible wonder supplement for prostate protection. It’s grapeseed extract.

Yes, the stuff you might spit out when eating those delicious small globes really offer tremendous protection for your prostate. A report in a respected cancer journal found that any intake of grapeseed extract in a large group of 35,239 men (aged 50-76) reduced their risk of prostate cancer.


Interestingly, they didn’t find any protection from other supplements they followed in the study. These included chondroitin, CoQ10, fish oil, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, glucosamine, or saw palmetto. The participants were questioned specifically about their use of supplements.

While questionnaire studies are not the most accurate, they can point of value when the results are significant. And the results of this study in favor of grapeseed extract were very significant.

The researchers found any use of grapeseed supplements reduced the total risk of prostate cancer by a whopping 41%. That’s a huge finding. Imagine if Big Pharma found a patentable drug that produced these results. You would hear the news all over the media. But in this case, even the researchers weren’t impressed. The authors weren’t ready to endorse the use of grapeseeds at this time.

When I read this report I dug a little deeper. Another research team became aware of the use of the extract by men with prostate cancer. This team studied possible mechanisms of why it might be effective in this common disease. Here’s what they found.

Their work showed that grapeseed extract inhibits the cancer growth and also induces apoptotic death of human prostate cancer cells. This was true both in a lab culture and in living mice with implanted human prostate cancers. They found the toxic effects on the cancer cells to be “rather strong.” They found that grapeseed induced specific damage to cancer cell mitochondria and their membranes. The result was cell suicide (apoptosis), which is what we want wayward cells to do.

I have always been a fan of grapeseed extract supplements. They are packed with oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, much like the bilberry supplements we use for eye health. These are potent bioflavonoids (plant chemicals) with enormous preventive and healing powers. After reading all of this information, I’m not recommending my prostate cancer patients take grapeseed extract. In fact, I’ll likely add the extract to all of my cancer programs.

I strongly believe that anything that can treat a cancer will likely be effective at preventing it. So I’m also recommending every man over the age of 40 take a grapeseed extract every day.

From December 5, 2011 Health Info Newsletter: Vitamin E and Prostate Cancer, Prostate Health, Warts

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