In 1922, Evans and Bishop1 discovered a dietary substance essential for animal reproduction. After confirming its essential nature, later investigators named the substance vitamin E. In the next forty years research revealed many of the vitamin's secrets but no certain therapeutic use and no definite deficiency disease in man.
Clinicians have used vitamin E in treating a multitude of diseases. The rush to use this substance in women subject to recurrent abortion subsided promptly when little or no effect resulted. Therapy for a variety of vascular diseases has been similarly unconvincing. As Hellstrom comments, "While an extensive literature has arisen promulgating the efficacy of vitamin E in the therapy of various disease states, it must be emphasized strongly that there exists considerable evidence to the contrary."2
The production of vitamin E deficiency is relatively easy in the laboratory. The body does not synthesize any of the tocopherols—which together constitute