Vitamin E

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Researchers consider Vitamin E to be the most important fat-soluble nutrient... Learn more.

What Is Vitamin E?

Researchers consider vitamin E to be the most important fat-soluble nutrient in the human body. It helps to protect fatty tissues and the fatty parts of the cell membrane from oxidative damage, and plays an indispensable role in fertility (during pregnancy the amount of vitamin E usually increases in the mother-to-be by up to 150%). Vitamin E even enables cells to signal one another, enabling certain genes to be switched on or off. So crucial is vitamin E in human health that it has its very own protein, TTP (Tocopherol Transfer Protein), dedicated to maintaining high levels in our cells and tissues.

Although alpha tocopherol is far and away the best-known type of vitamin E, it would be incorrect to think of alpha tocopherol as the only form this nutrient takes. Vitamin E consists of eight different varieties, the alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherols, plus the alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienols. While all possess vitamin E activity, they seem to differ in certain important respects.

It should be noted that scientists usually measure vitamin E in IUs, or International Units, rather than milligrams.

What Are Food Sources Of Vitamin E?

While vitamin E can be found in certain cereal grains such as rice and wheat, fatty foods such as coconut, avocadoes, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. Many scientists strongly suspect that vitamin E promotes heart health, but in an ironic twist, those people who eat a low-fat diet for heart health are the ones most likely to obtain suboptimal amounts of this powerful antioxidant from their food. This underscores a possible need for vitamin E supplementation in some groups of people.

What Is Vitamin E Used For?

Since the nineteen-fifties many scientists have believed that vitamin may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, America’s leading cause of death. Although the results of studies have sometimes been mixed, one randomized, placebo-controlled trial in Great Britian (the so-called CHAOS study) found that between 400 and 800 IU of vitamin experienced a dramatic 77% reduction in nonfatal heart attacks. Other cardiovascular studies raise the possibility that this inexpensive nutrient may also lower the risk of strokes, blood clots, and atherosclerosis.

In another study that was originally designed to see if vitamin E might reduce the risk of lung cancer in men smokers, 50 units of vitamin E per day appeared to decrease the risk of prostate cancer by 34%. (Oddly, it seemed to have no effect on lung cancer risk, so quitting smoking is still the best idea!)

Studies published in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet raise the possibility that high-dose vitamin E supplements may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as slow the progression of both conditions.

Adriamycin, a widely used cancer drug, has the unfortunate side effect of causing damage to the heart muscle. Because of this its use often has to be discontinued or limited, even when Adriamycin seems to be benefiting the patient. However, several studies suggest that vitamin E, either by itself or in combination with the trace mineral selenium, seem to protect the heart against Adriamycin-induced damage.

The gamma-tcoopherol form of vitamin E perhaps deserves special mention, since it helps destroy a particularly destructive type of free radical, peroxyl nitrate. Researchers who have studied gamma-tocopherol believe that it might be more effective than other forms of vitamin E against breast cancer and neurological disease, and perhaps offter smokers more protection against free radical damage than does alpha-tocopherol.

Also worthy of note are gamma-tocotrienol and delta-tocotrienol. Not only do they possess antioxidant power hundreds of times that of alpha tocopherol, but they also inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, the same cholesterol-producing enzyme that statin drugs block. In some studies gamma-tocotrienol and delta-tocotrienol have lowered cholesterol levels by up to 22%. However, gamma-tocotrienol and delta-tocotrienol appear to achieve this without the side effects typically associated with statin drugs, that is, without muscle pain or the depletion of the body’supply of coenzyme Q-10.

In addition, many people find topical vitamin E very useful for a wide array of issues, from burns to wrinkles, and even relief from hemorrhoids.

How Is Vitamin E Taken?

Since vitamin E is fat soluble, it should be taken with meals that contain fat or oil. Absorption will be poor if this nutrient is taken on an empty stomach or with a non-fat meal.

A reasonable amount of vitamin E to consider supplementing with is in the 100 IU to 400 IU range per day.

Is Vitamin E Safe?

In large enough amounts any substance can be toxic, including water. But vitamin E appears to be quite nontoxic, as long as label directions are followed. A notable exception to this is people who take the prescription blood thinner Coumadin (also known as warfarin), since in quantities exceeding 1000 IU per day vitamin E has its own blood-thinning properties. If you take Coumadin, seek the guidance of a nutritionally knowledgeable doctor before using vitamin E.

And remember, you can obtain the best selling vitamin E supplements from at the lowest prices!

Author: Kenneth Stevens,