Vitamin E is key for strong immunity and healthy skin and eyes. In recent years, vitamin E supplements have become popular as antioxidants. These are substances that protect cells from damage. However, the risks and benefits of taking vitamin E supplements are still unclear.
Vitamin E benefits the body by acting as an antioxidant, and protecting vitamins A and C, red blood cells, and essential fatty acids from destruction. Research from decades ago suggested that taking antioxidant supplements, vitamin E in particular, might help prevent heart disease and cancer. However, newer findings indicate that people who take antioxidant and vitamin E supplements are not better protected against heart disease and cancer than non-supplement users. Many studies show a link between regularly eating an antioxidant rich diet full of fruits and vegetables, and a lower risk for heart disease, cancer, and several other diseases. Essentially, recent research indicates that to receive the full benefits of antioxidants and phytonutrients in the diet, one should consume these compounds in the form of fruits and vegetables, not as supplements.
Health Benefits of Vitamin E
Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases
Improving Metabolism and the Immune System
Vitamin E plays a vital role in improving our immune system. It helps in DNA repair and also in improving the body’s metabolic processes.
The intake of Vitamin E helps to stop the development of nitrosamines in our body. Nitrosamines are carcinogens that are formed in the stomach from nitrates in our diet. This helps in the improvement of our metabolic process. Vitamin E also helps protect some of the sensitive tissues of our body, like the skin, liver, eyes, breasts, and testes.
Researches have shown that Vitamin E helps prevent or delay the onset of heart diseases. Blockages in the coronary arteries can sometimes cause heart attacks and these blockages in the arteries are promoted by the oxidative changes by LDL-cholesterol in the body. Vitamin E has the vital component of antioxidants, which limit the oxidation LDL-cholesterol and thus help to prevent heart disease.
One of the major reasons for heart attacks is blood clots. Research shows that Vitamin E helps in the elimination of blood clots, which in turn helps to avoid heart attacks. Studies have shown that people with a high intake of Vitamin E are less prone to heart-related diseases.
This condition is a result of an abnormal growth in the eye’s lens. This results in cloudy vision and a high risk of vision disability in aged people. People with a high intake of Vitamin E have shown better lens clarity as compared to those who don’t consume appropriate amounts of vitamin E. Antioxidants present in Vitamin E aid in reducing or delaying the growth of cataracts and other conditions associated with premature aging.
Food Sources for Vitamin E
About 60 percent of vitamin E in the diet comes from vegetable oil (soybean, corn, cottonseed, and safflower). This also includes products made with vegetable oil (margarine and salad dressing). Vitamin E sources also include fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), seeds (sunflower) and fortified cereals.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare.
Cases of vitamin E deficiency usually only occur in premature infants and in those unable to absorb fats. Since vegetable oils are good sources of vitamin E, people who excessively reduce their total dietary fat may not get enough vitamin E.
Supplemental vitamin E is not recommended due to lack of evidence supporting any added health benefits. Megadoses of supplemental vitamin E may pose a hazard to people taking blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin (also known as warfarin) and those on statin drugs.
This vitamin is lipid-soluble, which means that it helps in cell-membrane stability. The antioxidant content in Vitamin E protect our cells from the negative effects of free radicals. Free radicals are the byproducts of our body’s metabolic process. These free radicals are harmful to our body as they damage cells ,which further increases the chances of the body developing chronic diseases like cancer and other cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamin E has the ability to limit the production of these free radicals, so it might help in the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases.
A Safe and Effective Answer to Clearer Skin
Antioxidant activity and photoprotection are not the only benefits that vitamin E offers. Scientists have found that delta tocotrienols are quite effective at slowing the production of melanin, the skin pigment responsible for unsightly age spots.One recent study found that these two forms of vitamin E are very adept at suppressing the activity of an enzyme called tyrosinase, a key player in melanin formation.8 Furthermore, this ability to block the biosynthesis of melanin was found to be effective even at very low doses. Compared to other popular water soluble skin lightening agents such as kojic acid, arbutin, and sodium lactate, vitamin E penetrates more deeply and delivers its active ingredients in a more controlled and constant manner, making it a very safe and effective alternative.
According to some experts, Vitamin E can be effective in accelerating the healing of damaged skin and it can be used in treatments for stretch marks, scars and burns. When selecting a Vitamin E product, health experts recommend that you should buy products that contain vitamin E in its alcohol form (alpha-tocopherol) rather than the acetate form (alpha-tocopherol acetate). It is thought that the acetate form is not as effective at penetrating the skins epidermis to reach deep layers of the skin.
When combined with Vitamin A, Vitamin E can act as a regulator for the absorption of vitamin A. This is another essential vitamin and is important for healthy skin growth. Vitamin E can also strengthen the skin’s cells by reducing water loss in order to help to prevent dry skin.
Sun Protection Barrier
Many sun cream and after sun products contain Vitamin E as it has antioxidant properties that actively protect skin cells against damage from free radicals, which can be caused by rays of ultra violet light. This can help to reduce the signs of premature aging therefore keeping skin looking fresh and youthful. Exposure to intense sunlight can be one of the major causes of premature aging so it is important to apply sun creams before you go outdoors in the summer. Most vitamin E based sun creams need to be applied at least 20 minutes before you go out to ensure the product has been absorbed deeply into the epidermis of the skin.
Recent studies have shown that Vitamin E could play a role in preventing the development of skin cancer. Again, this is thought to be a result of its powerful antioxidant effects, which help to prevent damage on the skin cells that can lead to skin cancer.
Vitamin E has also been linked to a healthy reproductive system and taking a daily supplement of this vitamin has been shown to help treat a number of conditions including menstrual pain, abdominal cramps and low sperm count.
Wrinkles come from age, free radical damage, improper skin care and poor habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol in excess. According to the book "Healing with Vitamins: the Most Effective Vitamin and Mineral Treatments for Everyday Health Problems and Serious Disease," vitamin E oil prevents the formation of wrinkles by blocking free radical damage. It treats wrinkles by boosting collagen production, a connective tissue that keeps skin elastic. Vitamin E oil also treats wrinkles by supporting new skin cell growth and speeding up cell regeneration.
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Vitamin E oil provides the skin with necessary moisture as well as antioxidants for intense healing. However, pure vitamin E oil is not ideal as a daily moisturizer because it is so thick and sticky. An intense vitamin E oil bedtime therapy is ideal for concentrated skin healing and preservation. Combine vitamin E oil with olive oil for smooth application and added therapy. Olive oil contains oleic acid, which makes skin more permeable and able to hold in necessary moisture.
Scar tissue is stubborn skin that comes from burns, old wounds and surgeries. Pure vitamin E oil is helpful for scar healing and prevention because it goes beneath the surface of skin to block free radicals. Free radicals are especially harmful to scar tissue because they prohibit healing. Diane Irons, author of Beauty Secrets: an Emergency Guide to Looking Great at Every Age, Size and Budget," explains that the strong antioxidant power in vitamin E also aids in collagen production, which gives skin its elasticity and is not present in scar tissue.
Brown spots on the skin are caused by aging, free radical damage and poor liver function. Vitamin E oil prevents and repairs free radical damage. When applied topically to brown spots on the skin, it helps to lighten and smooth the rough skin by lubricating cell membranes and encouraging cell regeneration.
Pure vitamin E oil is an effective treatment for dry, cracked cuticles. Applying a few drops of vitamin E oil to nails and cuticles helps to rehydrate and smooth them as well as prevent future cracks.
Sunflower seeds and nuts are among your best sources of vitamin E. Here's a sampling of foods that are high in E:
Vitamin E Foods
Food Serving d-alpha-tocopherol
Cereal, Whole Grain TOTAL 3/4 cup 20.2
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup 12.5
Almonds 1 ounce (24 nuts) 11.1
Spinach, frozen (boiled; drained) 1 cup 10.1
Hazelnuts 1 ounce 6.4
Mixed nuts (with peanuts) 1 ounce 4.6
Avocado (California) 1 medium 4.0
Peanuts (dry roasted) 1 ounce (28 nuts) 3.3
Why do people take vitamin E?
Many people use vitamin E supplements in the hopes that the vitamin's antioxidant properties will prevent or treat disease. But studies of vitamin E for preventing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and many other conditions have been inconclusive.
So far, the only established benefits of vitamin E supplements are in people who have an actual deficiency. Vitamin E deficiencies are rare. They're more likely in people who have diseases, such as digestive problems and cystic fibrosis. People on very low-fat diets may also have low levels of vitamin E.
What is vitamin E used for in the body?
According to Carper, ways vitamin E saves our brain include:
being an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect our bodies’ cells – including brain cells – from damage. Our brain is about 60% fat. Helping stop the fat in our brain from oxidizing (going rancid) by getting enough vitamin E is vital for our brains to function well.
controlling the transmission of messages within and between cells. Vitamin E helps protect the fat in our cells from damage. Damaged or rancid cell membranes cause confused messages. This can result in mental problems such as poor memory and concentration.
reducing clogging of our blood vessels with fatty deposits. This includes blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Clogged blood vessels are a leading cause of stroke, so vitamin E helps reduce the risk of this health problem.
helping treat and prevent diseases of the brain and nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Vitamin E helps stop inflammation, which can contribute to brain diseases.
Other uses of vitamin E include:
boosting low sex drive and treating impotence in men.
boosting fertility and reproduction. Vitamin E can help treat infertility.
helping treat diabetes and its complications.
helping heal wounds, burns, scars, sunburn, dry and flaky skin and other skin problems. Vitamin E is often added to skin creams and body lotions.
possibly helping prevent or delay diseases linked to molecules in our bodies called free radicals. Free radicals damage cells and might contribute to some diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
a role in stopping blood from clotting (thins the blood). Blood clots can cause strokes and heart attacks.
boosting the immune system, so help us fight diseases.
treating and preventing vitamin E deficiency in premature or low-birth weight infants.
What evidence is there that vitamin E helps improve our brain?
Many studies have been done on the effects of vitamin E on our brain. Below are a few that found vitamin E can have positive results.
Some foods high in vitamin E, and the amount of vitamin E they contain (in milligrams (mg)), are:
wheat germ oil (best source), 1 tablespoon: 20 mg
almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce (about 28 grams): 7 mg
sunflower seeds, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 6 mg
sunflower oil , 1 tablespoon: 6 mg
safflower oil, 1 tablespoon: 5 mg
hazelnuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 4 mg
The above figures are from the National Institutes of Health.
Breakfast cereals with added vitamin E can also be good sources of this vitamin.
What destroys or reduces the effectiveness of vitamin E?
Vitamin E is sensitive to:
Heat, so cooking. Up to nearly 60% of vitamin E can be lost in cooking, freezing – there is some loss of vitamin E during freezer storage.
sunlight – vitamin E decomposes in sunlight.
oxygen, so exposure to air.
What are some food storage and cooking tips to conserve vitamin E?
Store vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds in airtight containers away from sunlight, heat and moisture, such as in a dark pantry or cupboard
Eat nuts and seeds raw instead of cooked
Heat can destroy vitamin E, so don’t fry vitamin E-rich foods at high temperatures
What are the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency?
Signs and symptoms of too little vitamin E can range from minor to severe and can include:
nervous system problems due to poor nerve conduction. Problems include:
myopathy (muscle weakness)ataxia. This causes a lack of coordination of muscles movements. Symptoms include problems with balance and coordination.
peripheral neuropathy. This is damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system. Common symptoms are numbness, tingling and/or burning hands and/or feet.
Other health problems that a lack of vitamin E can cause include:
low sex drive
decreased sexual performance
lack of energy
feeling very tired after light exercise
slow wound healing
immune system problems. The immune system is the part of the body that fights disease.
retinopathy. This is a disease of the retina in the eye that can cause loss of eyesight and eventually lead to blindness.
According, a severe long-term lack of vitamin E might cause:
cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart beat rate)
Can taking high amounts of vitamin E cause side effects?
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects body tissue from damage caused by substances called free radicals. Free radicals can harm cells, tissues, and organs. They are believed to play a role in certain conditions related to aging.
The body also needs vitamin E to help keep the immune system strong against viruses and bacteria.
Vitamin E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and it helps the body use vitamin K. It also helps widen blood vessels and keep blood from clotting inside them.
Cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and carry out many important functions.
Whether vitamin E can prevent cancer, heart disease, dementia, liver disease, and stroke is still not known.
The best way to get the daily requirement of vitamin E is by eating food sources. Vitamin E is found in the following foods:
Vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils)
Nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts/filberts)
Seeds (such as sunflower seeds)
Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli)
Fortified breakfast cereals, fruit juices, margarine, and spreads. Fortified means that vitamins have been added to the food. Check the Nutrition Fact Panel on the food label.
Products made from these foods, such as margarine, also contain vitamin E.
Eating vitamin E in foods is not risky or harmful. In supplement form, however, high doses of vitamin E might increase the risk for bleeding and serious bleeding in the brain.
High levels of vitamin E may also increase the risk of birth defects.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins reflect how much of each vitamin most people should get each day.
The RDA for vitamins may be used as goals for each person.
How much of each vitamin you need depends on your age and gender.
Other factors, such as pregnancy, breast-feeding, and illnesses may increase the amount you need.