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Form of Vitamin E Found in Common Cooking Oils May Reduce Lung Function

There are eight forms of vitamin E: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). While all of the different types provide specific benefits for the body, a recent study suggests that gamma-tocopherol, which is found in soybean, canola and corn oils, may reduce lung function in humans.

Participants in the study included 4,526 people who took part in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. The researchers tested participants’ lung function at the onset of the study and then four times over the course of 20 years. They also tested tocopherol levels in their blood plasma three times over 15 years.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that 10 micromolars of gamma-tocopherol in the blood plasma – a level that is considered “high” – was associated with a 10% to 17% decrease in lung function. That is equal to the decrease in lung function of someone with asthma.

The past 40 years has seen a switch in the American diet from lard and butter consumption, to soybean, canola and corn oils. During this time, rates of asthma have also been increasing in the US. Conversely, countries with low rates of asthma have diets high in olive and sunflower oils, which contain alpha-tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol is associated with better lung function.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine conducted the study. It was published in the October 2013 issue of Nutrients.

Gamma-tocopherols are found in canola, soybean, and corn oils, all of which were touted as more heart healthy than butter or lard in the 1980s. An healthier option for both your heart and your lungs, according to this study, would be olive oil or sunflower oils, which don’t contain gamma-tocopherols.

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