Along with vitamin C, vitamin E is one of the most commonly consumed dietary supplements. A number of studies have documented its benefits especially for the heart. Moreover, there are some studies showing benefits from supplementing 1200 International Units per day as a way to slow the progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease (Wang, O'Reilly, Weisskopf, Logroscino, McCullough, Schatzkin, Kolonel & Ascherio, 2011). A recent study shows that vitamin E can reduce the risk of developing amyotrophic lateral scherosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), a condition in which the nerve cells that control muscle activity progressively degenerate (Wang, O'Reilly, Weisskopf, Logroscino, McCullough, Schatzkin, Kolonel & Ascherio, 2011).
Although ALS is not common, it is an example of the protection afforded by this antioxidant vitamin. For this study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health combined the results of the Nurses' Health Study (1976-2004), the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2004), the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort (1992-2004), the Multiethnic Cohort Study (1993-2005), and the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study (1995-2005).
Over the entire group, they did not see an association with vitamin E, but what they found was that ALS rates declined with increasing years of use. For non-users and those who had been taking vitamin E for less than one year, the rates of ALS were similar. For those taking vitamin E for 2 to 4 years, the rate of ALS was 23 percent lower than among non-users. Among those taking vitamin E for 5 years or more, the rate of ALS was 36 percent lower than for non-users. The participants with the highest intake of vitamin E had a 21 percent reduction in relative risk of ALS compared to those with the lowest intake. This suggests neurological benefits from vitamin E.
Wang, H., O'Reilly, É.J., Weisskopf, M.G., Logroscino, G., McCullough, M.L., Schatzkin, A., Kolonel, L.N. & Ascherio, A. 2011.Vitamin E intake and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a pooled analysis of data from 5 prospective cohort studies. American Journal of Epidemiology, 173, 6, 595-602.