A little extra vitamin E may boost heart function in former smokers

New research shows that taking a specific form of vitamin E may help accelerate the health benefits of quitting smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, linked to 443,000 deaths per year, mostly in the form of lung cancer or ischemic hearth disease. Luckily, quitting smoking shows immediately health benefits to anyone who can put down the pack, notes the American Cancer Society. Within hours of quitting smoking, heart rate and blood pressure fall, and within three months both lung function and circulation are improved. Though the body does heal quickly, the damage brought about by smoking can still require a long healing process. It can take as much as ten years for the heart of a former smoker to resemble one of someone who has never smoked, according to Time magazine.

A University of Ohio research team has recently found that an extra dose of a special form of vitamin E  may help boost  the health effects of quitting smoking. For the study, doctors recruited smokers to quit for seven days, with blood markers of inflammation to be measure before and after the trial. Half of the study participants were given and gama-tocopherol form of vitamin E, in addition to abstaining from cigarettes smoking. While all participants showed a marked increase in cardiac function of at least 2.8 percent, those who took the additionally vitamin E supplement saw an additional 1.5 percent increase on average.

The form of vitamin E used in the study is not the type common in over- the-counter supplements. The most common form of vitamin E, the one which humans have a dietary requirement for, is alpha tocopherol. The gamma version of the vitamin is the most common variant found in foods regularly consumed, including peanuts, soy beans, pistachios and cashews.

“We used the gamma tocopherol type in contrast to virtually all other vitamin E studies that use alpha tocopherol,” said study lead author Dr. Richard Bruno, PhD. “Alpha tocopherol  is the one that we know the most about. It is the form that we know is required for humans, but gamma tocopherol is the most abundant form. We used the gamma tocopherol form because not only does it have antioxidant activity, like alpha tocopherol, but recent evidence indicates that it also has effective ability to lower inflammation and also trap what we call reactive nitrogen species. These are chemicals generated in the body that can lead to damage to various proteins.”

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