CORVALLIS - A nationally recognized expert on vitamin E will speak Wednesday, Jan. 14, at Oregon State University on the current state of knowledge about this important nutrient and its possible value in preventing disease.

The presentation, "A Fair and Balanced Look at Vitamin E," will begin at 7 p.m. in the CH2M HILL Alumni Center on the OSU campus. The free, public lecture is by Maret Traber, a professor with the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU.

According to Traber, about a decade ago vitamin E was hailed almost as a "miracle" nutrient that could prevent heart disease and other degenerative health problems. But some of the most recent studies have concluded that this vitamin has little benefit in preventing heart attacks, and there is a great deal of confusion and controversy about its value.

"It's pretty clear by now that vitamin E can't cure a lifetime of poor health habits, but it may also be true that it has values in preventing disease and promoting health that have not been fully recognized in some of the research," Traber said.

Vitamin E clearly has been shown to help preserve nerve function, she said, and may reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. And some of the studies exploring its role in cardiovascular disease may not have addressed issues of bioavailability of the nutrient, as well as the special nutritional needs of people who are facing oxidative stress for one reason or another.

"There are some new and fairly powerful discoveries about vitamin E that we plan to discuss, and give people a better idea of just what type of research has been done and what we can conclude from the studies," Traber said.

Among other findings, a new study has just been published that shows vitamin E availability varies a great deal depending on whether it is consumed along with food.