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The vitamin E isoforms α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol have opposite associations with spirometric parameters: the CARDIA study

Michelle E Marchese1, Rajesh Kumar2, Laura A Colangelo3, Pedro C Avila1, David R Jacobs45, Myron Gross6, Akshay Sood7, Kiang Liu3 and Joan M Cook-Mills1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Allergy and Immunology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, McGaw M304, 240 E. Huron, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA

2 The Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

3 Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

4 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA

5 Department of Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

6 Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

7 Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA

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Respiratory Research 2014, 15:31  doi:10.1186/1465-9921-15-31

Published: 15 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Clinical studies of the associations of vitamin E with lung function have reported conflicting results. However, these reports primarily examine the α-tocopherol isoform of vitamin E and have not included the isoform γ-tocopherol which we recently demonstrated in vitro opposes the function of α-tocopherol. We previously demonstrated, in vitro and in animal studies, that the vitamin E isoform α-tocopherol protects, but the isoform γ-tocopherol promotes lung inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness.

Methods

To translate these findings to humans, we conducted analysis of 4526 adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) multi-center cohort with available spirometry and tocopherol data in blacks and whites. Spirometry was obtained at years 0, 5, 10, and 20 and serum tocopherol was from years 0, 7 and 15 of CARDIA.

Results

In cross-sectional regression analysis at year 0, higher γ-tocopherol associated with lower FEV1 (p = 0.03 in blacks and p = 0.01 in all participants) and FVC (p = 0.01 in blacks, p = 0.05 in whites, and p = 0.005 in all participants), whereas higher α-tocopherol associated with higher FVC (p = 0.04 in blacks and whites and p = 0.01 in all participants). In the lowest quartile of α-tocopherol, higher γ-tocopherol associated with a lower FEV1 (p = 0.05 in blacks and p = 0.02 in all participants). In contrast, in the lowest quartile of γ-tocopherol, higher α-tocopherol associated with a higher FEV1 (p = 0.03) in blacks. Serum γ-tocopherol >10 μM was associated with a 175–545 ml lower FEV1 and FVC at ages 21–55 years.

Conclusion

Increasing serum concentrations of γ-tocopherol were associated with lower FEV1 or FVC, whereas increasing serum concentrations of α-tocopherol was associated with higher FEV1 or FVC. Based on the prevalence of serum γ-tocopherol >10 μM in adults in CARDIA and the adult U.S. population in the 2011 census, we expect that the lower FEV1 and FVC at these concentrations of serum γ-tocopherol occur in up to 4.5 million adults in the population.

Keywords:
α-tocopherol; γ-tocopherol; FEV1; FVC; Human