Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with various forms. Its key role is to act as an antioxidant. It means that it can protect our cells from free radical damage.
Numerous available studies suggest potential benefits of this Vitamin in averting and addressing a variety of health concerns. It promotes hormonal balance, eye, hair and skin health, brain function, fertility, normal blood sugar levels, and immune system. It also supports cardiovascular health by working as an antioxidant and by helping to prevent excessive blood clotting (1).
By readily interacting with fats, it reduces the oxidation of fat molecules. Since fats are essential structural components of cell membranes, a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to severe health complications, including disruptions in movement and coordination, particularly in children (1).
Vitamin E Deficiency
In developed countries, dietary deficiency of Vitamin E is relatively common. The lack of this important Vitamin increases the risk for various health problems including dysfunctional and weakened immunity, cognitive deterioration, premature ageing, and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Forms of Vitamin E
There are many forms of Vitamin E found in nature, including alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherol, as well as alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocotrienols. The most studied forms that are also used in dietary supplements are alpha tocopherols and gamma tocopherols.
Alpha tocopherol is the primary form of vitamin E that is preferentially used by the human body to meet appropriate dietary requirements. It has the highest biological activity and highest concentrations in human body.
Tocotrienols which are found in palm and coconut oils, barley, and rice bran oil are also frequently studied. Alpha- and beta-tocotrienols are the least active forms, while delta- and gamma-tocotrienols are the most active.
The best food source of this vitamin is wheat germ oil. Other good sources are seeds and nuts.
Alpha tocopherol is predominantly found in sunflower seeds, peanuts, and almonds.
Sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and sesame seeds are good sources of gamma tocopherol.
Tocotrienols are found in palm oil and barley.
However, to get therapeutic dosages of this vitamin, you need to take a supplement.
Please notice that although on paper some oils (including corn oil, soya oil, or sunflower oil) are listed as sources of Vitamin E, yet in practice they significantly increase the demand for this vitamin because they are high in free radicals. For this reason the wheat germ as well as whole and unroasted seeds and nuts are much better sources of this vitamin.
Key Health Benefits
Vitamin E benefits skin by acting as antioxidant and natural anti-aging factor, strengthening the capillary walls, improving moisture and elasticity of the skin, and fighting skin inflammation. Taking it together with vitamin C can decrease effects of sunburn, acne, and eczema (2).
It also helps speed up skin cell regeneration making skin look younger and can be used to reduce scars and wrinkles.
It has been regarded as an anti-inflammatory agent for the skin. Several studies have demonstrated that use internally and externally, it helps prevent inflammatory skin damage after UV exposure (3).
Since Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, it helps decrease radical and environmental hair damage. Used internally and externally, it can also improve blood circulation to the scalp and prevent it from becoming dry and flaky.
A small research study on 38 volunteers with hair loss examined the role of Vitamin E in improving hair health. It found that it improved the hair growth of the volunteers compared with a placebo (4).
Hormones and PMS
Taking Vitamin E alone (and even better with Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and B5), a week before, during and and after menstruation, may help maintain hormonal balance, reduce uterine cramping, menstrual pains, mood changes, and anxiety (5).
The primary function of Vitamin E in our body is to reduce the oxidative stress by blocking the activity of free radicals. It protects fat molecules from oxidation, helping maintain the healthy structure and function of fat cell (6).
It serves as a protective antioxidant that prevents cholesterol oxidation positively impacting cardiovascular health (7). It can also help reduce cell adhesion and slow down progression of hardening of the arteries (8). However, synthetic vitamin E doesn’t have the same benefits as natural forms.
Physical Endurance and Muscle Strength
It plays an important role in increasing muscle strength and physical endurance, boosting energy, and reducing the level of oxidative stress in muscles after exercise (9).
Asthma and Allergies
Pregnancy and Development of the Embryo
It is critical during pregnancy and is required for proper development of embryo as well as neurological development of infants and children due to its ability to protect critical fatty acids and prevent inflammation.
The greatest demand for this vitamin is during the months before and after conception as it impacts early stages of neurologic and brain development. It is, therefore, recommended that women who plan conception, and are pregnant, should increase consumption of rich in Vitamin E foods and take good quality supplement containing mixed natural tocopherols (11).
Alpha tocopherol is critically important for the development of the placenta. It was shown that supplemental natural form of this vitamin was beneficial in the treatment of infertility in both men and women (12).
When diet of mice was deprived of dietary sources of this vitamin, it resulted in spontaneous abortions in pregnant mothers (12).
In one study, the supplementation with d-alpha tocopherol resulted in a two-fold increase in thickness of the wall of the uterus and increase in pregnancies (12).
Vitamin E can help improve sperm quality of men diagnosed with infertility (14).
Anti-inflammatory properties of tocotrienols were shown to slow down the memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative brain disorders (15). It seems to work better when taken with other antioxidants.
Some sources suggest that Vitamin E can be useful in reducing the harmful effects of cancer treatments including radiation and chemotherapy (16).
Vitamin E may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness. However, for vitamin E to be effective for eye problems, it should be taken with vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin A, and zinc.
Recommended Daily Intake
- Infants 0-6 months: 4 mg; 7-12 months: 5 mg
- Children 1-3 years old: 6 mg
- Children 4-8 years: 7 mg
- Children 9-13 years: 10 mg
- Adults (14 years and older): 12 mg (18 IU)
- Pregnant women: 16 mg a day
- Nursing women: 19 mg
Some experts suggest that the recommended daily intake for this vitamin is too low and that in order to achieve healthy levels of 30 μmol/L, adults and children over 14 should take at least 33 mg (50 IU).
Safe Upper Intake
The safe (tolerable) upper intake levels for adult men and women, are set at 540 mg (800 IU) per day.
Vitamin E Should be Ingested with Healthy Fat
Vitamin E is fat-soluble, and for proper absorption needs to be taken with healthy fat sources such seeds, nuts, raw coconut oil or cold-pressed olive oil. In fact, studies have shown human body can only absorb about 10 percent of this vitamin if it is taken without a fat.
Any information or product suggested on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Consult your primary healthcare physician before using any supplements or making any changes to your regime.