Scientists at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have found that higher blood levels of gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E not usually included in vitamin supplements, is associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer than is alpha tocopherol, the synthetic form of vitamin E most commonly found in supplements.
Although seldom studied, gamma-tocopherol is a natural form of vitamin E routinely found in the North American diet, notably in soy foods. The study also revealed that high concentrations of gamma-tocopherol appear to boost the prostate cancer-fighting abilities of both alpha-tocopherol and the micronutrient selenium.
Blood levels of both alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol were lower among the men with prostate cancer than among the control subjects, but these differences were statistically significant only for gamma-tocopherol. Compared with the men with the lowest levels of gamma-tocopherol, men with the highest levels had a fivefold reduction in their risk of developing prostate cancer. What is more, gamma-tocopherol appeared to boost the protective effects of both alpha-tocopherol and selenium.
The study authors note that since alpha-tocopherol supplementation may lower gamma-tocopherol concentrations in plasma and tissues, supplementation with combined alpha- and gamma-tocopherol (a "mixed vitamin E" supplement) may be called for in future prostate cancer prevention trials.
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