Vitamin E Cuts Bladder Cancer Risk

Almonds, spinach and other foods rich in alpha-tocopherol are best

Eating foods rich in the most powerful form of vitamin E can cut the risk of bladder cancer by more than 40 per cent, Texas researchers have found. Vitamin E is actually a group of related compounds — tocopherols and tocotrienols — that act as antioxidants in the body, reducing the damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.

The most potent form of vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol. The study's principal author, John Radcliffe of Texas Women's University in Houston, says almonds, spinach, mustard greens, green and red peppers and sunflower seeds are excellent sources of alpha-tocopherol, as are oils from olives, cotton seed and canola.

The researchers compared the eating habits of 468 people with bladder cancer and 534 people without cancer. People with a high alpha-tocopherol intake from foods alone had a 42 per cent reduced risk of bladder cancer. A high alpha-tocopherol intake from both dietary sources and supplements reduced the risk by 44 per cent.

Gamma-tocopherol is the most common form of vitamin E in the U.S. diet, but it had no protective effect against bladder cancer, says Ladia Hernandez, a co-investigator and doctoral student at the university. Radcliffe says eating half an ounce of almonds or one serving of spinach a day would have been enough to change a study participant's alpha-tocopherol intake from "low" to "high."

The researchers emphasize that no guidelines on the use of vitamin E supplements can be drawn from the study at this point, and that the best advice is still to eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

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