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Optimal nutrition: vitamin E

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2007

P. A. Morrissey*
Department of Nutrition, University College, Cork, Republic of Ireland
P. J. A. Sheehy
Department of Nutrition, University College, Cork, Republic of Ireland
*Corresponding author: Professor P. A. Morrissey, fax +353 21 270244, email
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Interest in the role of vitamin E in disease prevention has encouraged the search for reliable indices of vitamin E status. Most studies in human subjects make use of static markers, usually a-tocopherol concentrations in plasma or serum. Plasma or serum α-tocopherol concentrations of < 11.6, 11.6–16.2, and > 16.2 mmol/l are normally regarded as indicating deficient, low and acceptable vitamin E status respectively, although more recently it has been suggested that the optimal plasma α-tocopherol concentration for protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer is > 30 μmol/l at common plasma lipid concentrations in combination with plasma vitamin C concentrations of > 50 μmol/l and > 0.4 mmol β-carotene/l. Assessment of vitamin E status has also been based on α-tocopherol concentrations in erythrocytes, lymphocytes, platelets, lipoproteins, adipose tissue, buccal mucosal cells and LDL, and on α- tocopherol: γ-tocopherol in serum or plasma. Erythrocyte susceptibility to haemolysis or lipid oxidation, breath hydrocarbon exhalation, oxidative resistance of LDL, and α-tocopheryl quinone concentrations in cerebrospinal fluid have been used as functional markers of vitamin E status. However, many of these tests tend to be non-specific and poorly standardized. The recognition that vitamin E has important roles in platelet, vascular and immune function in addition to its antioxidant properties may lead to the identification of more specific biomarkers of vitamin E status.

‘Optimal nutrition’
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 1999


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