Vitamin E and C are incredible nutrients. They are some of the most powerful antioxidants and they have a myriad of benefits. They have been thoroughly studied for decades. For example, there have been over 20,000 articles published in the medical literature on vitamin E alone.
Just to give you some idea about the power and value of these antioxidants, let me cite some recent articles published in the medical literature. For those of you who unfortunately have had cancer or know someone with this condition, you may be all too familiar with the terrible side effects of chemotherapy. A study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in March. In the study forty seven patients with cancer were scheduled to receive cisplatin chemotherapy, which is a very powerful and highly toxic agent. These patients were randomly assigned to receive 300 mg vitamin E supplementation daily during the cisplatin therapy with a second group receiving the chemotherapy alone. Vitamin E was administered orally before cisplatin chemotherapy and continued for three months after the suspension of treatment. Twenty-seven patients completed six cycles of chemotherapy; thirteen patients in the group receiving vitamin E and fourteen patients not receiving the vitamin.
The incidence of neurotoxicity in the vitamin E treated group was approximately 30% as compared to 85% neuro-toxicity in the group that received the chemotherapy without the vitamin E. Even in this small clinical trial, the statistical significance reached .01 (meaning that there was only a 1% likelihood that this happened by chance with a 99% likelihood that the results were accurate). As a neurologist, unfortunately I see many patients with neurologic side effects from chemotherapy. I will surely be recommending vitamin E to my oncology colleagues to prescribe to all of their cancer patients.
In another study published in the prestigious American Journal of Gastroenterology from February, fifty-seven patients with stable but oxidatively stressed patients with Crohn’s disease were supplemented with vitamin E 800 IU and 1000 mg vitamin C daily or placebo for a four week period. It was concluded that those patients treated with vitamins C and E resulted in a significant reduction in oxidative stress. The authors of the study suggested that patients with inactive or mildly active Crohn’s disease can be oxidatively stressed and have increased requirements for antioxidant vitamins.
Another study looking at both vitamins C and E was recently published in the prestigious journal Circulation. In this study, 520 smoking and non-smoking men and post-menopausal women between the ages of forty-five to sixty-nine with cholesterol levels above 193 were studied for a total of six years. Half of the group was treated with 270 mg of vitamin E and 500 mg of slow release vitamin C daily with the other group receiving placebo. The study known as ASAP (antioxidant supplementation in atherosclerosis prevention study) found that those individuals treated with vitamins had a significant reduction in arteriosclerotic buildup and thickening of the common carotid artery. In men, there was a 33% reduction with a 14% reduction in women. The authors concluded that the findings confirmed that supplementation with combination of vitamin E and slow release vitamin C slows down atherosclerotic progression in hyper-cholesterolemic persons.
Vitamins C and E have even been shown to shorten the length of critically ill surgical patients’ stays in intensive care units. This study was published in the Annals of Surgery from last December. There were 595 patients enrolled in the study and randomized to receive a combination of vitamin C and vitamin E versus no vitamin supplementation. Multiple organ failure was significantly less likely to occur in patients receiving antioxidants versus just traditional care. Patients also receiving antioxidant supplementation had a shorter duration on respirators and an overall decrease in the length of their ICU stay.
This is just a small sampling of recent double-blinded randomized studies published looking at these important vitamins. For those of you who are taking the typical once-a-day mass marketed vitamins, you are sorely lacking adequate levels of these two critical nutrients. The typical once-a-day vitamin contains only 60 mg of vitamin C with 30 units of vitamin E.
Quite clearly 300 to 800 units a day of vitamin E is required for optimal benefit. As a matter of fact, in a study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago, Alzheimer’s patients treated with 2000 units a day of vitamin E had a slow down in progression of their condition compared to placebo.
Vitamin C intake should ideally be between 500 to 2000 mg a day. The best form of vitamin E is natural versus synthetic vitamin E. The natural form of vitamin E is absorbed approximately 250% better than synthetic vitamin E. Even better is a mixed blend of vitamin E. The typical vitamin E contains only the alpha form but is lacking the beta, delta and gamma forms which are also critically important.
In terms of vitamin C, Ester-C is probably the most effective product. It is pH neutral (which makes it gentle on the stomach) and stays in the body up to ten hours compared to only two or three hours for typical ascorbic acid.
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