Anti-inflammatory effect of vitamin E may be gene-dependent

November 5, 2013

Variations in genes involved in responses to oxidative stress may be crucial for beneficial effects of vitamin E in reducing inflammation, suggests a new study from the UK.

To explore the role of genetic variants (polymorphisms) on changes in inflammatory cytokine production after vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) supplementation, inflammatory markers (TNF-alpha and IL-1beta, -6, and -10) were measured in blood samples of 160 healthy, middle-aged male volunteers at the beginning of the study and after 6 weeks of supplementation with 75 IU or 600 IU alpha-tocopherol per day (1). The study results showed that the ability of alpha-tocopherol to decrease inflammatory marker concentrations depended on several variations in the participants’ genes involved in inflammation or responses to oxidative stress.

The researchers concluded that the effect of vitamin E supplementation on the production of inflammatory cytokines appears to be dependent on an individual’s genotype. These genotype-specific differences may help explain some of the discordant results in studies that have used vitamin E. Despite evidence of antioxidant effects of vitamin E in vitro and in animal studies, large, randomized clinical trials have not substantiated a benefit of vitamin E in reducing inflammation in humans. Thus, an individual’s genetic background may affect the response to alpha-tocopherol supplementation.


  1. England A. et al. Variants in the genes encoding TNF-?, IL-10, and GSTP1 influence the effect of ?-tocopherol on inflammatory cell responses in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. Published online May 2012.