Respiratory Freedom Thanks to Extra Virgin Olive Oil



Vitamin E is an essential nutrient known for its benefits to our bodies. However, new research has revealed that two forms of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol, have contrasting effects on respiratory health. These two compounds act in different ways, being able to both protect and adversely affect the respiratory system. The key to understanding this duality lies in their presence in specific edible oils. We will explore the outcomes of a study conducted by Northwestern Medicine and the importance of these two forms of vitamin E for lung well-being.

The CARDIA Study

The Northwestern Medicine research team analyzed data from the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study) study, which involved more than 4,500 participants of various ethnicities. Over the course of two decades, participants underwent respiratory function tests at four separate times. Meanwhile, the researchers monitored plasma concentrations of two forms of vitamin E: alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol.

The Opposing Effects of Gamma-Tocopherol and Alpha-Tocopherol.

Data analysis revealed an interesting contrast between gamma-tocopherol and alpha-tocopherol regarding respiratory health:

1. Gamma-Tocopherol: High concentrations of gamma-tocopherol in plasma (>10 mmol/L), abundant in soybean, canola, and corn oils, have been associated with a 10% to 17% reduction in respiratory function. This negative effect was amplified by the presence of a specific protein called protein kinase C-alpha, which triggered an inflammatory reaction in the lungs.

2. Alpha-Tocopherol: In contrast, alpha-tocopherol, present in considerable amounts in olive and sunflower seed oils, appeared to neutralize the negative effects of protein kinase C-alpha. As a result, alpha-tocopherol has demonstrated a protective function toward lung and respiratory health.



The Importance of Conscious Food Choice.

The results of the study suggest that the choice of edible oils in our diet can have a significant impact on respiratory health. Choosing oils rich in alpha-tocopherol, such as olive oil and sunflower seeds, can help protect the respiratory tract. On the other hand, excessive intake of gamma-tocopherol, common in soybean, canola, and corn oils, could have adverse effects on lung function, especially in association with specific pro-inflammatory proteins.


Vitamin E presents itself as a double-edged nutrient for respiratory health: alpha-tocopherol acts as a protector, while gamma-tocopherol can negatively affect lung function. It is essential to make conscious food choices, favoring oils with high amounts of alpha-tocopherol to preserve lung and respiratory health. Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action of vitamin E and to optimize its positive impact on our health.

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