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What is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds with antioxidant properties, playing a crucial role in protecting cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. These compounds are divided into two main categories: tocopherols and tocotrienols, with each category having four different forms (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Alpha-tocopherol is the most biologically active and abundant form of vitamin E in the human body.
Vitamin E plays several crucial roles in the body. Its primary function is as an antioxidant, where it protects cells from damage caused by reactive oxygen species. These harmful molecules are generated either through normal metabolic processes or due to external factors such as pollution or UV radiation. In addition to its antioxidant activity, Vitamin E is vital for the immune system. It helps maintain a healthy immune system by protecting immune cells from oxidative damage. Vitamin E also has a significant role in cell signaling and the regulation of gene expression, which are critical processes for maintaining cellular health and function. Furthermore, it contributes to blood vessel health by maintaining the integrity of blood vessels and preventing platelet aggregation, which is important in reducing the risk of blood clots. These diverse functions underscore the importance of Vitamin E in supporting overall health and well-being.
Some good dietary sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oils), nuts (such as almonds and hazelnuts), seeds (such as sunflower seeds), and green leafy vegetables (like spinach and kale). Since vitamin E is fat-soluble, it is better absorbed by the body when consumed with dietary fat.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare in healthy individuals, but it can occur in people with certain genetic disorders, malabsorption issues, or those on very low-fat diets. Symptoms of deficiency can include nerve and muscle damage, vision problems, and a weakened immune system.
What are the Benefits of Vitamin E?
Vitamin E offers a variety of health benefits due to its antioxidant properties and its role in various physiological processes. Some of the key benefits include:
- Antioxidant protection: Vitamin E helps protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause harm to cells and contribute to aging and the development of various diseases.
- Heart health: Vitamin E may help reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and improving blood vessel function.
- Skin health: Vitamin E has been shown to support skin health by reducing inflammation, protecting against sun damage, and promoting wound healing. It is a common ingredient in skincare products, including creams, lotions, and ointments.
- Eye health: Some studies suggest that vitamin E, along with other antioxidants, may help protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract formation.
- Immune function: Vitamin E plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system, particularly in older individuals, by protecting immune cells from oxidative damage and supporting proper immune cell function.
- Brain health: Some research indicates that vitamin E may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, possibly due to its antioxidant properties and its role in maintaining cell membrane integrity.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Vitamin E has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation in various chronic conditions like arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.
- Reproductive Health: PMC5836012
“Initial research on vitamin E and cancer has focused on alpha-tocopherol (alphaT), but recent clinical studies on cancer-preventive effects of alphaT supplementation have shown disappointing results… However, accumulating mechanistic and preclinical animal studies show that other forms of vitamin E… have far superior cancer-preventive activities. The existing evidence strongly indicates that these lesser-known vitamin E forms are effective agents for cancer prevention or as adjuvants for improving prevention, therapy, and control of cancer.”Natural Forms of Vitamin E as Effective Agents for Cancer Prevention and Therapy [PMC5683003]
The Different Forms of Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a group of eight fat-soluble compounds, divided into two main categories: tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each category has four forms: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Here’s a bit about each form:
- Alpha-tocopherol: This is the most common form of vitamin E found in supplements and in the North American diet. It’s considered the most biologically active form in humans. Alpha-tocopherol acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals. It is commonly found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables.
- Beta-tocopherol: Less common than alpha-tocopherol, beta-tocopherol still provides some antioxidant protection. It’s found in similar food sources as alpha-tocopherol, including vegetable oils and some nuts.
- Gamma-tocopherol: This form of vitamin E is more common in the American diet than alpha-tocopherol, largely due to its presence in common cooking oils. Gamma-tocopherol also has antioxidant properties and may offer additional benefits, like anti-inflammatory effects.
- Delta-tocopherol: The least common of the tocopherols, delta-tocopherol is found in certain vegetable oils. Like the other forms, it provides antioxidant benefits but is less potent compared to alpha-tocopherol.
- Alpha-tocotrienol: This form is less common than alpha-tocopherol but has been noted for its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Alpha-tocotrienol is found in certain oils like palm oil and rice bran oil, as well as in some nuts.
- Beta-tocotrienol: Rare compared to other forms of vitamin E, beta-tocotrienol also exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be found in some vegetable oils.
- Gamma-tocotrienol: Similar to gamma-tocopherol, gamma-tocotrienol is a potent antioxidant and may also help reduce inflammation. It is found in certain vegetable oils and grains.
- Delta-tocotrienol: The least common form of tocotrienol, delta-tocotrienol, like its counterparts, provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s present in some vegetable oils.
Each form of vitamin E plays a role in protecting cells from oxidative stress, although their potency and specific health benefits can vary. A balanced diet typically provides a variety of these forms, contributing to overall health and well-being.
Is Vitamin E Safe?
Vitamin E is widely recognized for its safety when consumed in recommended amounts. It’s essential for maintaining healthy skin and eyes and also plays a crucial role in strengthening the immune system. Found naturally in various foods like nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables,
Medication Interactions with Vitamin E
- Anticoagulant and Antiplatelet medications (e.g., Warfarin, Aspirin): Vitamin E may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with these medications, as it can enhance their blood-thinning effects.
- Simvastatin and Niacin: When combined with Vitamin E, these medications might not be as effective in lowering cholesterol levels.
- Chemotherapy drugs: Vitamin E might reduce the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs, impacting their therapeutic outcomes.
- Radiotherapy: Similar to chemotherapy, Vitamin E might also decrease the effectiveness of radiotherapy treatments.
- Statins and Fibric Acid Derivatives: These medications, used for lowering cholesterol, may have reduced efficacy when taken with high doses of Vitamin E.
- Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates: Vitamin E can potentially interact with drugs metabolized by this liver enzyme, affecting drug levels in the body.
Supplement Interactions with Vitamin E
- Vitamin K: Vitamin E can interfere with Vitamin K’s role in blood clotting, potentially leading to an increased risk of bleeding, especially at high doses of Vitamin E.
- Iron: High doses of Vitamin E may exacerbate iron overload in people with conditions like hemochromatosis.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Vitamin E might increase the risk of bleeding when taken with omega-3 supplements, especially in high doses.
- Selenium: High doses of Vitamin E combined with selenium might increase the risk of prostate cancer in some men.
- Beta-Carotene: When taken with Vitamin E, it may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
- Other Antioxidants (e.g., Vitamin A, Vitamin C): High doses of Vitamin E combined with other antioxidants can potentially lead to an imbalance in antioxidant activity, which may affect overall health.
Food Sources of Vitamin E
Here’s a table showing some common food sources of vitamin E and the approximate amount of vitamin E in each food (in milligrams, mg):
|Amount of Vitamin E (mg)
|Wheat germ oil
|20 mg per tablespoon
|7.4 mg per ounce
|7.3 mg per ounce
|5.6 mg per tablespoon
|4.6 mg per tablespoon
|4.3 mg per ounce
|2.9 mg per 2 tablespoons
|2.2 mg per ounce
|1.9 mg per 1/2 cup cooked
|1.2 mg per 1/2 cup cooked
|1.1 mg per medium fruit
|0.9 mg per 1/2 cup sliced
|0.7 mg per medium fruit
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Natural Vitamin E 400IU (with mixed tocopherols, natural source) contains naturally occurring d-alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherols, the most biologically active forms of Vitamin E.* These forms occur together naturally in plant foods and offer their own unique antioxidant properties.* Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger.* Vitamin E promotes healthy cardiovascular and blood vessel function and supports many physiological functions.* As a fat-soluble antioxidant, Vitamin E may also help maintain cell membrane integrity, promote a healthy nervous system, and support healthy cognitive function.*
- contains natural tocopherols, biologically active forms of Vitamin E*
- potent antioxidant helps protect against free radicals*
- promotes healthy blood vessels*
Take 1 softgel, 1-2 times daily with food, or as directed by a healthcare practitioner
Amount Per 1 Softgel Serving
Vitamin E 400IU … 268mg (natural) (as d-alpha tocopherol)
Mixed Tocopherols … 50-60mg (as d-Beta, d-Gamma, and d-Delta)
Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.
Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.
To Sum It Up
Vitamin E plays a pivotal role in supporting overall health, notably enhancing skin and eye health, and boosting immune function. Its antioxidant properties help protect cells from damage, and its presence in a variety of foods makes it accessible in a balanced diet. While supplementation can be beneficial for certain individuals, it’s important to adhere to recommended dosages to avoid potential interactions with medications or other supplements. As with any nutrient, the key to reaping the benefits of Vitamin E lies in consuming it as part of a well-rounded diet or a carefully considered supplement regimen, ideally under the guidance of a healthcare provider.