Vitamin E and Prostate Cancer

I am constantly reviewing newly published scientific papers in order to stay abreast of the latest developments nutritional science and prostate health. When coupled with what I learn from my clinical practice at NYU Langone, XY Wellness customers can be confident that all of our formulations are safe, effective, and based on the best science has to offer. 

As we all know, there exists both sound and not so sound scientific research. There are times when well-intended researchers or medical journalists can misinterpret data or fail to properly frame their analysis. This results in causing more confusion than providing insights.

An example of this scenario is the recent news stories claiming that Vitamin E can cause prostate cancer. Let me provide you with some background on the family of antioxidants referred to as Vitamin E and then on the SELECT study that has generated so much confusion.

Some background on Vitamin E and prostate cancer

The term Vitamin E describes a family of eight antioxidants: 4 tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta), and 4 tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). 

Several studies suggest that alpha-tocopherol needs to be combined with the rest of its family members, particularly gamma-tocopherol, since when high doses of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E are consumed in isolation it can eliminate gamma-tocopherol from blood cells. 

While alpha-tocopherol inhibits the production of free radicals, it is the gamma-tocopherol that is required to trap and neutralize free radicals. As such, several studies have suggested that consuming high levels of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E without also consuming gamma-tocopherol can cause a multitude of health problems.

One study of particular relevance suggests that men with the highest blood levels of gamma-tocopherol have a five-times lower risk of prostate cancer compared with men with the lowest blood levels. Other studies suggest that gamma-tocopherol offers a protective effect against prostate cancer.

Finally, recent research indicates the protective effect of the other group of Vitamin E family, tocotrienols. One scientific report in 2010 shows that mixed tocotrienols are effective in preventing and inhibiting prostate cancer growth in mice. Mice studies are of interest because their prostate cancer progression closely resembles that in humans and therefore provides a useful tool to test efficacy of preventive compounds.

Some background on the SELECT study

The SELECT study randomly assigned participant to receive one of the following:

  • Selenium and a Vitamin E placebo;
  • Alpha–tocopherol form of Vitamin E and a selenium placebo;
  • Selenium and alpha-tocopherol form of Vitamin E; or
  • Two placebo pills.

The study was stopped prematurely when an early look at the data showed no benefit for the group taking the alpha-tocopherol form of Vitamin E plus selenium. In fact, the data suggest that there was slightly more prostate cancer found in men taking the alpha-tocopheral form of Vitamin E alone.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that based on follow-up with the SELECT participants that a common dose of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E (400 IU/d) was linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer among healthy men. The researchers went further to generalize that all vitamins, not just Vitamin E, could cause harm. 

My Conclusion: GIGO

GIGO is the acronym for “garbage in, garbage out” and unfortunately it applies here. The design of original SELECT study failed to provide participants with access to a full-spectrum Vitamin E. As a result, its data set does not provide useful insights on Vitamin E. Attempting to draw legitimate conclusions from a flawed data set does nothing but cause confusion. Making matters worse is a recent attempt to then generalize from an unsupported conclusion to vitamins as a whole. This is not sound science; it is sensationalism.

What does this all mean to you? I want you to know that our Advanced Prostate Support includes a full-spectrum Vitamin E called Ultra Gamma E. It incorporates all 8 of the Vitamin E family members, plus a boosted level of gamma-tocopherol. It works synergistically with the other elements of Advanced Prostate Support. As always, you can be confident that all XY Wellness formulations are safe, effective, and based on the best science has to offer.



Dr. Geo Espinosa


*The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.