Vitamin E has multiple anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions. Asthma is among the most prevalent chronic diseases in the United States and represents a source of burden to patients and the health care system. Environmental pollutants are a known trigger for asthma which causes airway inflammation, tight airways and increased production of airway mucus.
In a recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers sought to see if vitamin E supplementation decreased airway inflammation and allergic airway disease. Among the forms of vitamin E that have been suggested for asthma interventions are alpha-tocopherol, which is commonly used as both as a supplement and pharmaceutical product, it is the most common form found in dietary sources. Sources of vitamin E can be found in almonds, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, palm oil, butternut squash, pumpkin, trout and olive oil.
A study was designed for participants with mild asthma to receive vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) or placebo for 14 days and their inflammatory markers were assessed afterwards.
- 2 week supplementation was associated with reduction in airway inflammatory marker levels, with fewer eosinophils and mucus than in patients receiving placebo.
- Airway inflammatory responses was diminished to endotoxin (which is found in particulate matter and commonly linked to asthma severity) after supplementation.
Vitamin E might represent a nonsteroidal treatment option for asthma, but it must be studied further to determine the effect on clinical asthma outcomes. Vitamin E might reduce airway inflammation for eosinophilic asthma phenotypes. It also reduced neutrophilic asthma which is evident in viral induced asthma.
Patients should not start taking vitamin E for asthma, as this is a very early study and previous studies have given conflicting results especially in mouse models. The study also did not mention what effect did supplementation have on clinical asthma outcomes such as wheezing, chest tightness, cough or albuterol usage.
But overall a 2 week course of vitamin E supplementation seemed to reduce airway inflammation similar to taking a 2 week course of an inhaled steroid (fluticasone propionate) in this case. It has the potential to treat multiple features of asthma including airway inflammation, mucus production and clearance of mucus.
Always speak to your asthma doctor if you have any questions regarding your asthma care to see what is right for you.