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Clinical Investigations: SMOKING/COPD |

Effect of Vitamin E on Exhaled Ethane in Cigarette Smokers*

Michael P. Habib, MD, FCCP; Laura J. Tank, BS; Lisa C. Lane, BS; Harinder S. Garewal, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Pulmonary Medicine and Oncology Sections of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.



Chest. 1999;115(3):684-690. doi:10.1378/chest.115.3.684
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Study objectives: We hypothesized that micronutrient antioxidant intake may be one factor determining the development of significant COPD. Vitamin E was administered to smokers to determine if exhaled ethane was reduced and if ethane correlated with measures of lung function.

Study design: Longitudinal placebo lead-in trial with posttreatment observation period.

Setting: Tucson Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Participants: Twenty-nine current stable smokers having no interest in smoking cessation.

Interventions: Spirometry, exhaled breath ethane measurements, and vitamin E andβ -carotene plasma levels followed by 3 weeks of placebo with repeat plasma vitamin levels and ethane measurements; next, 3 weeks of vitamin E (dl-α-tocopherol), 400 IU po bid followed by plasma vitamin levels and breath ethane measurements; finally, 3 weeks without vitamins followed by breath ethane and plasma vitamin levels.

Results: Vitamin E treatment did not reduce ethane significantly. Exhaled ethane levels (mean + SD: pm/min/kg) were as follows: baseline, 7.39 ± 5.39; after run-in period, 6.86 ± 4.09; after vitamin E, 6.36 ± 3.02; and final, 7.23 ± 4.63. After vitamin E therapy, a significant negative correlation existed between exhaled ethane and FEV1/FVC. Pack-years of smoking at baseline and after vitamin E were significantly associated with ethane exhaled. Initial lung function was not significantly negatively associated with vitamin E-induced changes in exhaled ethane but a negative trend was found.

Conclusions: Vitamin E alone, unlike the combination of vitamins C, E, and β-carotene, failed to reduced exhaled ethane in cigarette smokers. Exhaled ethane was correlated with pack-years of smoking. Smokers whose ethane values were found to fall the most tended to have better preserved lung function.

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