A presentation at the American Thoracic Association 2010 International Conference on May 18, 2010 revealed the discovery by researchers at Cornell University and Brigham and Women's Hospital of a lower risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in women who supplemented with vitamin E, an antioxidant.
"The oxidant/antioxidant balance in lung tissue is hypothesized to contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) risk, and observational studies consistently report high antioxidant status associated with lower risk of COPD and asthma," write researchers Anne Hermetet Agler and colleagues in an abstract that describes their findings.
The team analyzed data from 38,270 health professionals aged 45 and older who participated in the Women's Health Study, which evaluated the effects of every other day regimens of aspirin or vitamin E in cancer and heart disease prevention over a 10 year period. Follow-up questionnaires ascertained new diagnoses of chronic lung disease, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and bronchiectasis.
While the risk of developing COPD was four times greater in smokers than in nonsmokers, the researchers uncovered a 10 percent reduction in risk in both smokers and nonsmokers who consumed 600 international units (IU) vitamin E every other day compared to those who received a placebo. Adjustment for age and other factors failed to modify the association.
"As lung disease develops, damage occurs to sensitive tissues through several proposed processes, including inflammation and damage from free radicals," observed Dr Agler, who is a doctoral candidate at Cornell's Division of Nutritional Sciences. "Vitamin E may protect the lung against such damage."
"The findings from our study suggest that increasing vitamin E prevents COPD," she continued. "Previous research found that higher intake of vitamin E was associated with a lower risk of COPD, but the studies were not designed to answer the question of whether increasing vitamin E intake would prevent COPD. Using a large, randomized controlled trial to answer this question provided stronger evidence than previous studies."
"If results of this study are borne out by further research, clinicians may recommend that women take vitamin E supplements to prevent COPD," she added.