Obese people need more vitamin E, but they actually get less

Obese people need more vitamin E, but they actually get less
Credit: USDA.

In a recent study, researchers suggest that obese people with metabolic syndrome face an unexpected quandary when it comes to vitamin E.

Obese people need more than normal levels of the vitamin because their weight and other problems are causing increased oxidative stress, but those same problems actually cause their effective use of vitamin E to be reduced.

As a result, experts from Oregon State University say that a huge number of Americans may be chronically deficient in vitamin E.

This could compound the wide range of diseases known to be associated with metabolic syndrome, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. The finding is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Metabolic syndrome affects more than one out of every three adults in the U.S.

It is characterized in people who have at least 3-4 common issues that raise health concerns: excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, low “good” cholesterol, and/or high levels of blood sugar and triglycerides.

Some of the findings of this study are counterintuitive, the researchers said, because vitamin E is a fat soluble micronutrient and, in theory, should be available at increased levels in people who are overweight and eat large amounts of fatty foods.

However, the researchers found that even though circulating vitamin E in the bloodstream may be high, in obese people this essential micronutrient is not finding its way into tissues where it is most needed.

Fat generates oxidants that increase metabolic stress. Vitamin E, along with vitamin C and some other antioxidants, are natural dietary defenses against this problem.

However, millions of Americans – more than 92% by some measures – eat a diet deficient in vitamin E, often about half the desired amount. Vitamin E is found at highest levels in some foods such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

Another concern is that when people try to lose weight, often the first thing they do is to limit their fat intake.

This may make sense if they are trying to reduce calories, but fat is the most common source of vitamin E in daily diets. Therefore, weight loss can sometimes actually worsen a nutrient deficiency.

Researchers suggest that a reasonable approach to lose weight would be to try to eat a balanced and healthy diet.

Even if attempting to lose weight, a person should take a daily multivitamin that includes 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E, which is 15 milligrams per day.

It’s also important to eat some food containing at least a little fat when taking a supplement, because otherwise this fat-soluble vitamin – in the form found in most dietary supplements – will not be well-absorbed.