Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant vitamin that helps to neutralize potentially damaging free radicals in our body. It exists in eight different forms, d-alpha-tocopherol being the most active form and one of the most powerful biologically active antioxidants. Each form has a different level of potency (functional use) in the body. The tocopherol and tocotrienol subfamilies are each composed of alpha, beta, gamma and delta vitamins having unique biological effects, with generally declining activity; e.g. delta is far less active than the alpha form.
As a supplement, Vitamin E has a number of health benefits for the body. Vitamin E is particularly important for the protection of our cell membranes as well as keeping your skin, heart and circulation, nerves, muscles and red blood cells healthy. Antioxidants such as vitamin E protect your cells against the effects of dangerous free radicals, potentially damaging by-products of your body’s metabolism. Free radicals can cause cell damage that may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
One or more members of the vitamin E family may also reduce cellular aging, inhibit the potentially damaging peroxynitrite radical, inhibit melanoma (skin cancer) cell growth, prevent abnormal blood clotting, synergize with vitamin A to protect the lungs against pollutants, protect nervous system and retina, lower the risk of ischemic and coronary heart disease, lower the risk of certain kinds of cancer, protect immune function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly if high doses are taken in combination with vitamin C. Vitamins E, A, and C can all be found in a good liquid multivitamin.
Vitamin E also may block the formation of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens formed in the stomach from nitrites consumed in the diet. It also may protect you against the development of cancers by enhancing immune function. Some evidence links higher intake of vitamin E with a decreased incidence of prostate cancer and breast cancer. As you can tell, Vitamin E is a very beneficial vitamin!
Gamma tocopherol is only 10 to 30% as strong as alpha tocopherol, yet recent studies have shown it to be essential for maintaining the health of our cell membranes, especially if alpha tocopherol is being supplemented. New studies continue to elucidate the unique benefits of individual members of the vitamin E family. For example, tocotrienols have been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent LDL oxidation, and reduce atherosclerotic plaque formation more effectively than tocopherols. For these and other reasons, the original definition of vitamin E now includes all eight family members and the related compounds that convert to them in the body.
Cataracts, growths on the lens of our eye that cloud vision, increase the risk of disability and blindness in aging adults. Antioxidants may prevent or delay cataract growth. Studies have shown that lens clarity, which is used to diagnose cataracts, was better in regular users of liquid vitamin E supplements and in persons with higher blood levels of vitamin E.1
100 IU or more of supplemental vitamin E a day has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks in healthy people. If you have pre-existing coronary artery disease it is recommended you take 800 to 1600 IU a day of Vitamin E. Vitamin E also may help prevent the formation of blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack. Studies have linked lower rates of heart disease with higher vitamin E intake.
Low-fat diets can substantially decrease vitamin E intakes if food choices are not carefully made to enhance alpha-tocopherol intakes. If you are taking anti-clotting medication, consult with your doctor before taking Vitamin E. Ingestion of total vitamin E products in excess of 1200 IU daily may interfere with absorption and metabolism of vitamins A and K.
Abetalipoproteinemia is a rare inherited disorder of fat metabolism that results in poor absorption of dietary fat and vitamin E Individuals with abetalipoproteinemia may be prescribed special vitamin E supplements by a physician to treat this disorder.
Some prefer cold-water dispersible dry powder vitamin E supplements in the form of alpha tocopheryl succinate or acetate because the cold-water dispersible forms are efficiently absorbed even when taken on an empty stomach or with a low-fat meal. Note that the non-cold water dispersible (oil) forms of vitamin E may be poorly absorbed unless taken with several grams of fats or oils.
Cold-water dispersible vitamin E is twice as expensive as soybean oil E-acetate, but (no surprise here) the cold-water dispersible forms are more efficiently absorbed. It is important that you know how well the vitamin E you are about to buy absorbs into the bloodstream. Liquid vitamin forms absorb 5 times better than do pill forms. Cold-water dispersible vitamin E, whether in a succinate or acetate form, always comes in a white dry powder, while noncold-water dispersible natural and synthetic acetate forms of vitamin E are always in thick brown oil.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare in humans although likely to occur under certain specific situations; namely, when an individual cannot absorb dietary fat, was born premature, is a very low birth weight infants (birth weights less than 1500 grams, or 3 1/2 pounds), and in individuals with rare disorders of fat metabolism . A vitamin E deficiency is usually characterized by neurological problems due to poor nerve conduction. The greater problem by far is not a gross deficiency but low vitamin E levels over many decades. This is one of the reasons that people get diseases and other maladies!
Vitamin E is one of the most beneficial vitamins for you. It is important that you take it or find a way to obtain it through foods daily to ensure that you derive the most benefit from this all-important vitamin. This is more so if you cannot absorb fat or are on a low fat diet as some dietary fat is needed for the absorption of vitamin E from the gastrointestinal tract. You will also need additional vitamin E supplements if you are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, have had part or all of your stomach removed, or have malabsorption problems such as Crohn’s disease. People who cannot absorb fat often pass greasy stools or have chronic diarrhea, called steatorrhea.
Lastly, it is important to note that Vitamin E is naturally an oil, and is (compared to other nutrients) a bit expensive so many pill based multivitamins skimp and give you a very small amount (40 – 60 IU’s) of vitamin E a day. Your average Centrum Performance gives you just 60 IU’s a day – so consider extra supplementation or find a high quality multivitamin that gives you 400 IU’s instead of just 40 or 60. Why? As just one example, the clinical benefits of Vitamin E’s protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease does not appear until at least 400 IU’s a day, even though the US RDA is just 30 IU’s per day.