Vitamin E Linked to Mysterious Vaping Sickness?

September 26, 2019
Category: Supplement Facts

Not so fast. Action Alert!

Recently, reports of illnesses and death linked to vaping have been all over the news. Although the exact cause of the lung illness is not known, the FDA is investigating the presence of vitamin E in many vaping products as a possible culprit. This may cause consumers to be concerned, more generally, about the safety of vitamin E, so it is important to do what many media outlets are not and get the facts straight: the “vitamin E” being referred to in the FDA’s investigation is not natural vitamin E, but a synthetic compound possessing  none of the antioxidant properties of real vitamin E. It is crucial that regulators, the media, and the public, not mix this up.

What is contained in many vaping products is vitamin E acetate (or, alpha tocopherol acetate). This synthetic compound is added to many consumer products, such as cosmetics and foods, as a stabilizing agent. It is unclear why it is added to vaping products, but it may be to increase shelf life.

Alpha tocopherol acetate is not made by our bodies, nor is it made in the plant kingdom—it’s not “real” vitamin E. Natural vitamin E is always in the form of an alcohol and has many health benefits, such as antioxidant properties. Alpha tocopherol acetate has none of these health benefits.

We previously reported on a new study that found delta-tocotrienol, one of the compounds in vitamin E, used in combination with Avastin, an FDA-approved drug, was able to stabilize and control ovarian cancer after surgery by 50% at six months; Avastin alone was only able to control the disease by 25%. Delta-tocotrienol used in combination with Avastin nearly doubled survival of ovarian cancer patients after surgery.

Alpha tocopherol acetate is all over the news, but experts are still not sure what is causing the vaping illness. The vapor that is exhaled in vaping contains many different compounds, including a number of carcinogens. Some of these compounds are benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, isoprene, lead, nickel, and toluene. The FDA is testing more than 100 samples for a number of chemicals, but no one substance has been found in all of the samples tested, including alpha tocopherol acetate.

What we’re seeing is sloppy journalism that could have a negative impact on public health. In today’s fast-paced news environment, the headlines and leads are what often stick with most people, and when we read that “vitamin E” is associated with an illness that is sickening hundreds and killing dozens of Americans, we’re left with a major misconception. Natural vitamin E, consumed as a supplement, is perfectly safe and has many health benefits, as we discussed. Alpha tocopherol acetate is simply not “vitamin E,” period.

This isn’t the first time the media has gotten this wrong. In 2014 there were media reports that vitamin E caused accelerated lung cancer. What was left out was that the study used vitamin E acetate, not natural vitamin E. Natural vitamin E may actually reduce lung cancer risk! Yet those reading the misleading headlines might think that vitamin E should be avoided.

Action Alert! Write to The New York Times and The Washington Post, telling them to set the record straight on natural versus synthetic vitamin E. Please send your message immediately.

11 responses to “Vitamin E Linked to Mysterious Vaping Sickness?”

  1. Dusty Young says:

    Leave natural suppliments like useable vitamin E be. There are industrial E products that are not the same.

  2. Dwayne Oxford says:

    Did, edited that I’ve taken NATURAL vit. E complex for MANY years with ZERO ill effects and MANY benefits.
    Synthetic E IS toxic in large amounts.
    God didn’t design us to inhale anything but air. Sadly it’s FAR inferior to pre-flood air and lower pressure too.

  3. Patricia Chambers says:

    Again do your job correctly instead of posting guesses about the cause of this issue.

  4. Linda M. Reilly says:

    Stop scapegoating natural products – Work the whol issue through and find the definitive cause or causes of these illnesses!

  5. Carolyn Moore says:

    I had to quit smoking for health reasons but I had so many stressful things going on in my life it was just too much. The patch didnt work because of skin conditions and Chantix caused me to feel terrible. So my doctor and I discussed electronic cigarettes and I started using those over 12 years ago. I now also use vaping devices. I dont use tobacco and I have had no medical issues due to using these. Even though I am 65 I have to show ID whenever I buy anything. I only use the tobacco flavor ( I hate the others) and nothing else such as THC or other narcotics. I take a puff or two and put it down until the nicotine craving starts. Someone put THC in the vaping i was using f o r personal motives and I got very sick and wasnt able to stand up. If I just continuously puff away my heart starts beating too fast. So there is such a thing as using the stuff wisely and no other chemicals. Just as with tobacco and alcohol kids have no business using them. In Arizona its illegal to sell it to a minor. Kids die and get injured in a lot more alcohol related events and their tobacco use will catch up to them. Who gets these things for kids because they cant? Irresponsible adults including parents.
    Vitamin E is good for lungs and I have studied enough about nutrition so that I know that. Theres a good and bad form of it.
    I feel much better since I quit tobacco products and ecigs and vaping has helped me. Using good common sense and moderation and not contributing to minors is the key. A few sudden uninvestigated incidents should not take vaping off the market. If you do plan on doing it with tobacco and alcohol. Alcohol is by far more dangerous. But you dont want to give that up right? Hippocrits !

  6. betty winholtz says:

    Please set the record straight on natural versus synthetic vitamin E. Surely your health correspondent knows the difference.

  7. Samantha Rosa-Re says:

    Natural vitamin E is not linked to vaping disease. The chemicals in the vapor is. Whoever can believe anything natural can cause a disease is an idiot. Just like you have to be an idiot to vape.

  8. Steve Fowkes says:

    This is a horrible article, making many statements false to fact. Who reviewed this for content before publishing it? The difference between vitamin E esters and free vitamin E cannot be described in such simplistic terms. Such a straw-man argument demeans the alliance and its members. Most of the quality natural vitamin E products on the market, and the ones that I buy preferentially, are tocopherol and tocotrienol esters. And what is not made clear in this article is that such esters are not added as stabilizing agents in the antioxidant sense. They have no antioxidant activity until they are de-esterified by the enzymes in the human body. Even mixed tocopherol succinates (natural E, according to the natural products industry) are esters with no antioxidant activity until they are de-esterified. This is the only way to safely take vitamin E without antioxidant preservatives. As a scientist, I am embarrassed to be associated with an organization that cannot clearly articulate the facts and controversies without resort to sensationalism, distortion and misleadingness. Please clean up your act.

    • Horrible article? Clean up your act? You should be embarrassed but not for that which you think.

      “The difference between vitamin E esters and free vitamin E cannot be described in such simplistic terms. Such a straw-man argument demeans the alliance and its members.”

      But it can be described in such simplistic terms. The critical question to ask is, ‘why do companies make vitamin E esters?’ Vitamin E esters are more stable; is this true? Wisdom from the plant kingdom (that exists long before mammals) only makes vitamin E alcohols! Companies make esters as a ‘processing aid’ to attain higher vitamin E concentration.

      All phenolic antioxidants used in the nutritional supplement industry—that come from plants—come ‘as is’ in the alcohol version. Examples from popular usage are curcumin, resveratrol, EGCG, quercetin, menaquinols and ubiquinol (the last two may not necessarily come from plants) and vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols are without exception phenolic alcohols. Esterified versions of phenolic-type antioxidants are simply not to be had by plants. Indeed, they are man-made.

      “Most of the quality natural vitamin E products on the market and the ones that I buy preferentially are tocopherol and tocotrienol esters.”

      You are incorrect. Most natural tocopherol supplements are alcohol versions, and all tocotrienol supplements are sold as alcohol versions. Esterified versions lock up all antioxidant potential of all vitamin Es.

      “And what is not made clear in this article is that such esters are not added as stabilizing agents in the antioxidant sense. They have no antioxidant activity until they are de-esterified by the enzymes in the human body. Even mixed tocopherol succinates (natural E, according to the natural products industry) are esters with no antioxidant activity until they are de-esterified.”

      This is correct but adds an unnecessary step of enzyme hydrolysis. We can learn from plants who do not make vitamin E esters. Almost all preclinical and clinical trials employ tocopherols and tocotrienols for research, not their esters.

      “This is the only way to safely take vitamin E without antioxidant preservatives. As a scientist, I am embarrassed to be associated with an organization that cannot clearly articulate the facts and controversies without resort to sensationalism, distortion and misleadingness. Please clean up your act.”

      Taking an alcohol version of vitamin E is no less safe, instead, we know less about vitamin E ester safety. We are making a genuine attempt to articulate facts here and the fact is the alcohol versions are most natural to the human body.

      This article and the authors were spot on and all you’ve done was to confused the issue. How unfortunate.

  9. Chris says:

    You have to say they are creative in their attack on natural health always leaving the doors wide open for broad use of the term vitamin.
    My friend is the leading vape distributor in Europe, he’s going to be a little upset however I sent him on a vision of the future where vaping will be healthy haha I have some good ideas for that 😉

  10. Snowman says:

    For those of you that dont seem to be able to put 2 and 2 together. Just because vitamin E is a vitamin you can swallow without ill effects does not mean it is harmless when heated in vaping and inhaled it is without major side effects!!

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