People who take vitamin E supplements regularly for years -- whether they are smokers or nonsmokers -- may lower their risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the lung condition that is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is often, but not always, caused by smoking.
While the risk reduction is relatively small, 10 percent, COPD is a common and life-threatening condition in which a decline in lung function can be slowed down but not reversed. COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue.
"The effect appears to be modest. But for something for which there isn't really any effective therapy and tends to be a degenerative condition, anything that would reduce the risk even somewhat is not an insubstantial benefit," says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston who was not involved in the study.