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Vitamin E slashes pneumonia risk in nonsmokers who exercise

Posted Feb 19 2011 12:00am

Depending on the level of smoking and leisure time exercise, vitamin E supplementation may decrease or increase, or may have no effect, on the risk of pneumonia, according to a study published in Clinical Epidemiology.

In laboratory studies, vitamin E has influenced the immune system. In several animal studies vitamin E protected against viral and bacterial infections. However, the importance of vitamin E on human infections is not known.

Dr. Harri Hemila and Professor Jaakko Kaprio, of the University of Helsinki, Finland, studied the effect of vitamin E on the pneumonia risk in the large randomized trial (Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study) which was conducted in Finland between 1985-1993. There were 898 cases of pneumonia among 29,133 participants of the study.

Vitamin E had no overall effect on pneumonia risk. However, vitamin E decreased pneumonia risk by 69 percent among participants who had the least exposure to smoking and who exercised during leisure time. In contrast, vitamin E increased pneumonia risk by 79 percent among those who had the highest exposure to smoking and did not exercise. Over half of the participants were outside of these two subgroups and vitamin E did not affect their risk of pneumonia. Thus, the beneficial and harmful effects of vitamin E are restricted to fairly small parts of the population. The researchers concluded the role of vitamin E in susceptibility to pneumonia in physically active nonsmokers warrants further study (Courtesy of EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS).

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