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Evaluation of the Photoprotective Effect of Oral Vitamin E Supplementation

Karla Werninghaus, MD; Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD; Jag Bhawan, MD; Randall Margolis, MD; Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD; Barbara A. Gilchrest, MD
Arch Dermatol. 1994;130(10):1257-1261. doi:10.1001/archderm.1994.01690100041005.
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Background and Design:  Solar-induced cutaneous damage is mediated partly via oxidative pathways. Some evidence exists for a photoprotective role of antioxidants. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we examined the effect of a long-term, orally administered antioxidant against UV-induced epidermal damage. Healthy human subjects supplemented their usual diet daily with either 400 IU of oral vitamin E (α-tocopherol acetate) or placebo over a 6-month period. Minimal erythema dose and histologic response to threefold minimal erythema dose exposure were determined at baseline, 1 month, and 6 months.

Results:  The minimal erythema dose did not vary substantially at the three time points within each treatment group or in the vitamin E—supplemented group vs the placebo group. The number of sunburn cells produced by a threefold minimal erythema dose exposure was also not significantly different between the two groups. Of note, however, vitamin E levels in plasma increased only modestly and in skin biopsy specimens were unchanged following 1 month and 6 months of supplementation.

Conclusions:  No clinical or histologic difference in the response to UVB could be detected between the placebo and vitamin E—supplemented groups. In this small study, daily ingestion of 400IU of oral α-tocopherol daily does not provide meaningful photoprotection.(Arch Dermatol. 1994;130:1257-1261)


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