Vitamin E may benefit lung health

February 7, 2011

Regular vitamin E supplementation may reduce the risk of chronic lung disease in women, a new US analysis reports.

The analysis was based on a large randomized controlled trial, including 38,597 healthy female health professionals aged 45 years and over taking vitamin E (600 IU every other day) or aspirin (100 mg every other day) for 10 years, to assess the effect of vitamin E on the risk of developing (self-reported, physician-diagnosed) chronic lung disease (1). The study results showed that supplementation with vitamin E led to a 10% reduction in the risk of developing chronic lung disease. This reduction was not influenced by cigarette smoking, age, randomized aspirin assignment, multivitamin use or dietary vitamin E intake.

It is hypothesized that the oxidant/ antioxidant balance in lung tissue contributes to the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Observational studies consistently report that a higher intake of nutrients with antioxidant properties is associated with lower COPD risk (2). Studies comparing patients suffering from COPD with healthy individuals have shown that the patients have lower plasma and peripheral skeletal muscle vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) concentrations. A lower risk of death from respiratory disease has been correlated with higher serum alpha-tocopherol concentration. However, it is not clear to what extent nutrition contributed to the onset of COPD (3). Randomized trials of diet change or vitamin E supplements in patient populations have reported mixed results.

COPD is characterized by progressive and irreversible airflow limitation and is a significant public health burden with a worldwide prevalence of about 10%. Given that there are few prevention strategies, the researchers commented that further study of vitamin E in relation to COPD is in the interest of public health.


  1. Agler A. H. et al. Randomised vitamin E supplementation and risk of chronic lung disease in the Women’s Health Study. Thorax. 2011.
  2. Hu G. and Cassano P. A. Antioxidant nutrients and pulmonary function: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Am J Epidemiol. 2000; 151:975–981.
  3. Gosker H. R. et al. Altered antioxidant status in peripheral skeletal muscle of patients with COPD. Respir Med. 2005; 99:118–125.