Randomised vitamin E supplementation and risk of chronic lung disease in the Women's Health Study

Thorax. 2011 Apr;66(4):320-5. doi: 10.1136/thx.2010.155028. Epub 2011 Jan 21.


Background: The oxidant/antioxidant balance in lung tissue is hypothesised to contribute to the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Observational studies consistently report higher antioxidant status associated with lower COPD risk, but few randomised studies have been reported.

Methods: A post hoc analysis of 38,597 women without chronic lung disease at baseline was conducted in the Women's Health Study (WHS) to test the effect of vitamin E on the risk of incident chronic lung disease. The WHS is a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled factorial trial of vitamin E (600 IU every other day) and aspirin (100 mg every other day) in female health professionals aged≥45 years. Using Cox proportional hazards models, the effect of randomised vitamin E assignment on self-reported physician-diagnosed chronic lung disease was evaluated.

Results: During 10 years of follow-up (376,710 person-years), 760 first occurrences of chronic lung disease were reported in the vitamin E arm compared with 846 in the placebo arm (HR 0.90; 95% CI 0.81 to 0.99; p=0.029). This 10% reduction in the risk of incident chronic lung disease was not modified by cigarette smoking, age, randomised aspirin assignment, multivitamin use or dietary vitamin E intake (minimum p for interaction=0.19). Current cigarette smoking was a strong predictor of chronic lung disease risk (HR 4.17; 95% CI 3.70 to 4.70; vs. never smokers).

Conclusions: In this large randomised trial, assignment to 600 IU vitamin E led to a 10% reduction in the risk of chronic lung disease in women.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / epidemiology
  • Lung Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • United States / epidemiology
  • alpha-Tocopherol / administration & dosage
  • alpha-Tocopherol / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • alpha-Tocopherol