Obese people need more vitamin E than non-obese people, but actually produce less, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, links the lack of vitamin E produced by obese people to several other health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble micronutrient that prevents damage when the body converts food to energy. Vitamin E also strengthens the immune system and protects cell membranes.
The findings are surprising, the researchers stated, because vitamin E should be produced at a greater level in obese people. However, studies have shown that this is not the case. Although obese people tend to have high level of vitamin E in the bloodstream, not enough of it makes its way into tissues.
“Vitamin E is associated with lipids, or the fats found in the blood but it’s mostly just a micronutrient that’s going along for the ride,” said Maret Traber, a principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute.
“What we found was that tissues of obese people are rejecting intake of some of these lipids because they already have enough fat. In the process they also reject the associated vitamin E. So even though the tissues are facing serious oxidative stress, the delivery of vitamin E to them is being impaired, and they are not getting enough of this important micronutrient.”
Compounding the problem is the lack of vitamin E in a typical “western” diet. Vitamin E is derived primarily from healthy fats such as nuts and seeds and plant oils. The researchers urge people looking to lose weight to follow a diet rich in vitamin E. Although vitamin E supplements are available, the daily recommended intake of vitamin E can be derived from diet alone.
“Another concern is that when people try to lose weight, often the first thing they do is limit their fat intake,” Traber said. “This may make sense if you are trying to reduce calories, but fat is the most common source of vitamin E in our diets, so that approach to weight loss can be sometimes actually worsen a nutrient deficiency.”
The findings are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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