That’s because, as one of the world’s leading experts on vitamin E, she is also its most enthusiastic fan.
Traber is the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research in the Linus Pauling Institute, as well as a professor in the School of Biological & Population Health Sciences at Oregon State University.
And if you find her wearing her white lab coat, you’ll notice embroidered over the pocket an additional title, “Goddess of Vitamin E.”
“I’m not shy,” Traber says. “And I like to have fun with telling the world about science. Our bodies are amazing, and it’s thrilling to discover ways that we can help them stay vibrant!”
With her own vibrant smile and a glint of humor in her eyes, she zips from tanks of zebrafish to a classroom of undergrads to a meeting with collaborators to her prolific lab.
Traber’s perpetual motion has results.
“Her pioneering studies caused a paradigm shift in our understanding of the mechanisms regulating vitamin E bioavailability and metabolism in humans,” said Balz Frei, Director and Endowed Chair of LPI.
Vitamin E has a complex role in human health, and Traber has provided the solid scientific basis for understanding it. Working on answers to problems that have eluded nutrition scientists for the past 100 years, Traber’s research spans the gamut from vitamin deficiency to excess.
Showing that E does not function in the body in isolation, her work has revealed its synergistic action, primarily with vitamin C. For instance, she has shown that adequate supplies of vitamin C can significantly block the depletion of E commonly caused by smoking.
Noting that vitamins E and K are both found in spinach, she says she is “hot on the trail” of how these fat-soluble vitamins work together. Based on what her latest work suggests, she says, “Consume plenty of both.”
Her work has also become the standard by which to examine metabolism of other vitamins.
Her results have wide-ranging implications for various health conditions, including obesity and diabetes. She has also found evidence that E plays a role, with other nutrients, in protecting and enhancing the brain’s function, including possibly reducing the brain shrinkage commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Traber is proactive in bringing scientific knowledge out from the labs to affect daily health practices. For example, serving on the Institute of Medicine Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds of the National Academy of Sciences, she helped establish our national dietary recommendations for vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids.
Currently, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, she is studying vitamin E requirements for women. Eager to get a message out, she challenges:
“Are you one of the 96% of women who don’t eat diets with enough vitamin E?”
According to the LPI Micronutrient Information Center, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E for adult men and women is 22.5 International Units per day, and more than 90% of individuals aged 2 years and older in the U.S. do not meet the daily requirement from food sources alone. LPI recommends that generally healthy adults take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement, which usually contains 30 IU of synthetic vitamin E.
Yet Traber says, “Get enough vitamin E by eating well. I don’t mean just lots of fruits and vegetables and a low-fat diet. Make sure you include the specific foods high in vitamin E.”
Major sources of vitamin E in the American diet are vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. [See information on food sources, and more on vitamin E .
Maret Traber’s work has been recognized worldwide by her peers and scientific organizations. On September 17, at the 20th Congress of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, she accepted the prestigious DSM Nutritional Sciences Award for excellence in innovative research that has significantly advanced the world’s understanding and knowledge of key questions relating to vitamin E. Among many other honors, earlier this year she also received the 2013 Pfizer Consumer Healthcare Nutritional Sciences Award from the American Society for Nutrition.
Read more about Maret Traber
The Linus Pauling Institute is a source for scientifically accurate information regarding the roles of vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, dietary phytochemicals , and some foods and beverages in preventing disease and promoting health. Link to the Micronutrient Information Center, where you can also sign up for LPI’s free, semi-annual Research Newsletter and occasional, timely updates.