Vitamin E is a true collective effort. Originally discovered in 1922, it is only in the last decade that we’ve realized that vitamin E is actually made up of eight compounds all together and is an indispensable member of the body’s antioxidant army, searching out and destroying damaging free radicals in the body. Absorbed in the small intestine, vitamin E is then transported to the liver. The liver singles out the alpha-tocopherol component of what’s been absorbed and secretes this more bio-available form back into general circulation. Antioxidants are extremely important as they help protect your body from the damaging effects of our environment; cigarette smoke, air pollution and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. As we speak, research is underway to investigate whether, by limiting free radical production in the body, science might one day help prevent or delay the chronic diseases associated with free radicals.
Vitamin E promotes heart and breast health, can ease PMS symptoms and supports circulation by encouraging circulation in the smaller blood vessels of the body. A study published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology found that healthy individuals (e.g., exercising non-smokers) had stronger respiratory health after taking vitamin E supplements. Vitamin E supports faster healing with the formation of far less scar tissue. It also supports and improves brain function and may delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. In some cases, it can be very helpful with hot flashes in menopausal women. Better absorbed when taken with foods that are higher in fat content (avocados, oils, etc.), it is important to make sure you don’t take your vitamin E within four hours of taking iron supplements as inorganic iron can destroy vitamin E. Having said that, organic iron found in sources such as spinach and other iron rich foods will not affect vitamin E.
THE FAMILY THAT IS “E”
Vitamin E is actually a family of eight antioxidant compounds. These consist of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and four tocotrienols (also alpha thru delta). The alpha tocopherol group is the form which is found in the largest quantities in human blood and tissue. Small amounts of the gamma form are also found.
Clear as mud, right? The graphic below should make things a little clearer. The difference between a tocopherol molecule and a tocotrienols molecule is based in chemistry.
The tail of the tocotrienols molecule’s tail has three double bonds (see the line in red) while the tocopherol tail has none. In chemical-speak, bonds are the forces that keep atoms together. A single bond means the atoms share two electrons, a double bond means they share four electrons. 1
Alpha-tocopherol is the compound that is active in your body as an antioxidant. Antioxidants prevent cell damage by slowing down the process of oxidation. Oxidation is any process where something is broken down by adding oxygen to it. Why is this bad? Well, it’s not always bad however, when we’re talking about free radicals in your body, it is. Here’s a simple explanation:
Free radicals, in small and controlled quantities, are actually helpful in everyday metabolism and are part of normal reactions in the body. In fact, the process of creating free radicals can’t be avoided each and every time the body converts food to energy. The problem starts when the production of these free radicals increases and then gets out of control. That’s where the damage begins.
Alpha-tocopherol protects other fat-soluble vitamins from destruction through oxidation and becomes a partner in the utilization of vitamin A in the body. Cholesterol is a useful substance in the body unless, in the wrong quantities, it gets out of hand. It’s actually the oxidized LDL that is linked with cardiovascular issues. LDL, or the “lousy” cholesterol, oxidation is inhibited by alpha-tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol also slows blood platelet aggregation, or blood clotting; sometimes this is desired, sometimes it is not. Depending on your current health, you may want your blood to clot. In other instances, you may want your blood to remain thinner. This is why, if you’re already taking blood thinners, you may want to consult with your primary health care provider before taking vitamin E.
The d-alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E is the most potent. Also, natural sources of vitamin E are much more bio-available to the body than the synthetic form. Read your labels closely. The natural form of vitamin E will be listed as follows:
- d-alpha-tocopherol acetate
- d-alpha-tocopherol succinate
CONDITIONS IN THE BODY THAT BENEFIT FROM VITAMIN E
New research conducted by Finnish scientists has found that adequate levels of vitamin E, such as those found in nutritional supplements, may support respiratory health and function. The team discovered this effect after giving nearly 30,000 study participants vitamin E supplementation. The inverse was also found to occur—those who smoked the most and neglected to exercise had more difficulty maintaining optimal lung function. Researchers concluded that vitamin supplementation may be useful for respiratory health maintenance in certain circumstances. 2
A randomized, double-blind, multicenter study involving 341 patients revealed that treatment with vitamin E or with selegiline delayed progression of the Alzheimer’s, including “delays in the deterioration of the performance of activities of daily living and the need for care.” During the two-year study, patients received a monoamine oxidase inhibitor called selegiline, 2000 IU per day of vitamin E, both treatments, or a placebo. According to the authors of this study, “there is evidence that medications or vitamins that increase the levels of brain catecholamines and protect against oxidative damage may reduce the neuronal damage and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”In a longterm study of more than 3000 Japanese-American men over 70 years of age living in Hawaii, researchers found that the use of vitamin C and vitamin E supplements significantly reduced the risk of dementia. In those without dementia, use of vitamin C or vitamin E supplements was associated with improved cognitive function. 3
SIGNS OF A VITAMIN E DEFICIENCY
Signs of a deficiency can include:
- Menstrual problems
- Muscle weakness
- Shortened red blood cell lifespan
- Impaired balance
- Vision problems
- Age spots
FOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN E
Vitamin E is found in the following foods:
- Cold-pressed olive/soybean/corn/canola/safflower/sunflower oils
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
Specifically, vitamin E is found in significant quantities in brown rice, milk, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and wheat germ.
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
As an antioxidant, vitamin E may help protect against cardiovascular disease, some cancers, cataracts, premature aging and other chronic degenerative diseases. It also protects other vitamins (such as vitamins A and C) from oxidation. Vitamin E’s ability to protect cell membranes makes it valuable for people in polluted environments and those with active lifestyles, as physical exertion increases production of free radicals. Approximately 400 IU of vitamin E reduces exercise-induced free radical damage and helps with athletic performance. Experts agree that obtaining adequate vitamin E from the daily diet is difficult and therefore recommend daily supplementation.
2. Vitamin Supplements May Support Respiratory Health
3. Vitamin E Improves Brain Function
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.