South Korea

Quarter of urbanites are vitamin E deficient, α-tocopherol study finds

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Of the subjects, 23% were vitamin E deficient and a further 67% were in the suboptimal range
Of the subjects, 23% were vitamin E deficient and a further 67% were in the suboptimal range

Related tags Nutrition

Nearly one-quarter of Seoul residents are vitamin E deficient, a study has revealed, providing more evidence to the argument that even apparently healthy or affluent populations cannot take adequate vitamin intake for granted.

In South Korea’s first report into the dietary intake and vitamin E status of adults living in its capital city, researchers set out to estimate the intake and plasma concentration of tocopherols, the family of vitamin E compounds naturally found in vegetable oils, nuts, fish and leafy green vegetables. 

By taking this approach, the researchers from Duksung Women's University in Seoul believed they could gain a greater level of accuracy in evaluating the vitamin E status of the subjects.

Largely suboptimal plasma concentrations

The study concluded that although some 23% of the subjects were vitamin E deficient, based on plasma α-tocopherol concentrations, and a further 67% had plasma level in the suboptimal range.

Vitamin E deficiency and inadequate status may increase risk of several chronic diseases, and studies have shown that inadequate vitamin E intake might be associated with risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. 

Trials to investigate the benefits of vitamin E against symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease showed that vitamin E-treated patients exhibited a slower functional decline, when compared to subjects that received the placebo. 

A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E plays an important role in preventing the peroxidation of lipids and oxidation of proteins, and can overcome the issue of fatty liver in certain patient groups. The European Commission has authorised an Article 13.1 health claim stating that “vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress​”. 

Affluence doesn’t necessary improve nutrition

The research has caught the attention of Asia-Pacific ingredients teams, with James Bauly, DSM’s regional marketing director, welcoming its findings.

The vitamin E intake of Korean adults is generally adequate. However, the α-tocopherol intake was lower than in other countries, and if only α-tocopherol is considered, then the intake of many subjects in the present study may be inadequate​,” Bauly said, though he conceded that further research into the bioavailability of tocopherols and tocotrienols in South Korea was needed. 

The study is another example that we cannot take adequate vitamin intake for granted even in apparently healthy or affluent populations, and highlights the importance of good, balanced nutrition, which may be complemented by a supplement if required​,” he added.

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