Vitamin E is called the “Vitamin of Youth” due to its properties and benefits. It can buffer the symptoms of the deterioration that we experience as we age. Above all, it produces an antioxidant effect and fights against immunosuppression.
According to the research, only a 50% meet their daily requirements through the diet.
- 1 What is Vitamin E?
- 2 What are the uses of Vitamin E?
- 3 Types of vitamin E
- 4 Properties of Vitamin E
- 5 How to take vitamin E?
- 6 Sources of vitamin E
- 7 Vitamin E supplements
- 8 What are the benefits of taking vitamin E?
- 9 Vitamin E can prevent some diseases
- 10 Natural vitamin E
- 11 Alpha-tocopherol, the renowned form
- 12 Tocotrienols: a slightly different form of vitamin E
- 13 Vitamin E deficiency
- 14 Vitamin E excess
- 15 What is the daily amount of vitamin E?
- 16 Contraindications of vitamin E
- 17 Vitamin E and sport
- 18 Combination of Vitamin E and C
- 19 What do the experts think about Vitamin E
- 20 Bibliography
- 21 Related Entries:
What is Vitamin E?
It is a type of fat-soluble vitamin that our body stores in the adipose tissue, so that we will use it whenever we need. Actually, vitamin E is made up by 8 types of molecules that are divided in two groups:
This vitamin has many other functions apart from protecting us against the free radicals and reducing the oxidative damage to the cells. For instance, it is also involved in slowing down the symptoms of aging, improving the aspect of the skin and the proper functioning of the organs; regulating the immune function; preserving the integrity of the endothelial cells as well as the blood coagulation.
What are the uses of Vitamin E?
- Cases of immunodeficiency.
- Fat absorption disorders.
- Preventing cardiovascular problems.
- Pregnancy and lactation.
- Senile dementia.
- Against stress.
- Premenstrual syndrome.
- When taking some medicines for a long period of time, like contraceptives or anti-epileptics.
Types of vitamin E
We have already seen that there are two types of vitamin E: alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol. However, alpha-tocopherol is the most appropriate form for human consumption.
There are four different tocopherol compounds: alpha, beta, gamma and delta-tocopherol.
Tocopherols are fats which have different structures regarding their saturated lateral chains. Both alpha and gamma-tocopherol are in the serum and red cells, while beta and delta-tocopherol are in the plasma.
In fact, there is evidence that alpha-tocopherol can help to prevent the onset of cardiovascular problems. Alpha-tocopherols protect the low density lipoproteins (LDL), that help to transport cholesterol in the blood. When LDL oxidize, they encourage the onset of cardiovascular problems.
Therefore, a natural tocopherol blend with gamma-tocopherol would protect better against cancer than those enriched with alpha-tocopherol.
Tocotrienol has four compounds: alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocotrienol. Actually, the basic structure is that of tocopherol.
The only difference lies in the structure of unsaturated lateral chains. Due to this, tocotrienols have more chances of entering the brain and liver. There, they will perform unique and important physiological functions.
They lower the cholesterol. The research has proven that they can suppress pro-inflammatory signals to combat the inflammation.
Therefore, we can say that tocotrienols are neuroprotectors against different toxins in the brain. Particularly, the research suggests that tocotrienols play a key role in protecting the brain cells against degeneration that can cause a stroke.
Properties of Vitamin E
Since Vitamin E can oxidize inside the organism, it acts as some kind of “bodyguard” for other substances. So, when it is destroyed, it prevents polyunsaturated fats and other fat-soluble substances like vitamin A from being destroyed by oxygen.
It has many benefits because it performs many tasks in the body such as: supporting the formation of red cells in the blood and regulating the synthesis of prostanoids. Both are important factors in reproduction processes and the reason why this nutrient is regarded as the vitamin of fertility.
It is the most important antioxidant in the body, protecting the cells against oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation. Its main effects are:
- Regulating the cholesterol
- Against the onset of any cardiovascular disease.
- Protecting the brain cells.
- Against diabetes.
- Strengthening the immune system.
Main features of vitamin E
- It is available in 8 different forms: four tocopherols (α-, β-, γ-, and δ-) and four tocotrienols (α-, β-, γ-, and δ-). Alpha tocopherol is the only active form for the body. Therefore, it is mainly located in the blood and tissues.
- Vitamin E makes up the cell walls and protects against oxidation.
- Moreover, it protects the body against the free radicals produced by metabolic processes or environmental factors.
- This vitamin improves the circulation and blood flow.
- Due to its anti-inflammatory effect, it is essential against negative rheumatic situations.
- The studies have proven that only a 50% of the population meets the requirements of this vitamin.
- It strengthens the immune system, protects the blood vessels against harmful fat deposits. In addition, it preserves and repairs the muscles, nerves, hair and mucosas.
- This vitamin is mainly present in plants and vegetable oils.
How to take vitamin E?
Our body cannot synthesize it, so we have to take it on a daily basis.
It absorbs this vitamin from different foods, such as walnuts, seeds, vegetable oils, as well as vegetables and cereals. Although it is a vital nutrient, we should not take it every day because it can be stored in the fatty tissue.
Sources of vitamin E
Vitamin E supplements
Supplements may vary depending on their concentration. However, most of them share the same main component: alpha-tocopherol. But the intake of this form will only meet part of our requirements.
What are the benefits of taking vitamin E?
Without any doubt, it is one of the greatest benefits of this vitamin. More specifically, it neutralizes the effect of the free radicals. These are unstable molecules due to their atomic imbalance and the fact that they “steal” electrons from surrounding cells. Consequently, this negatively changes the behavior of the molecule that they assault, resulting even in cell death. This becomes a domino effect that spreads to all the tissues.
Moreover, vitamin E has a strong antioxidant effect, that is specially important for the lungs. This is due to the fact that the cells there are constantly exposed to oxygen that can damage them. Apart from protecting the red cells in charge of transporting oxygen to all the cells of our body, it also protects the white cells. These are in charge of protecting the organism against certain diseases, strengthening the immune system as well.
Why does vitamin E have antioxidant effects?
Some studies conducted on workers that handled lead showed the powerful antioxidant effects of this vitamin. Moreover, the research also tested how the long term intake reduces the oxidative damage produced by lead in the cells and genetic material.
Tocotrienol, a more powerful antioxidant than tocopherol
But the antioxidant effect of vitamin E does not depend on its chemical structure. Rather, it also relies on other factors. The scientists believe that tocotrienols can effectively trap peroxide radicals. This is due to location of tocotrienols in the phospholipid layer of the cell membrane.
Tocotrienols distribute more regularly than other forms. Consequently, they neutralize the free radicals more efficiently than alpha-tocopherol.
Tocotrienols protect the organism
Other forms of vitamin E are more specific. For instance, gamma tocopherol can bind highly reactive nitrogen compounds (called nitrogen reactive species).
Nitrogen reactive species tend to be product of an inflammation. Therefore, we could say that gamma-tocopherol is an effective antioxidant, more so than alpha tocopherol. This is due to the fact that its methyl group prevents it from being reactive.
If we want to protect our cells against the damage from the free radicals, we need to take all its forms. Taking them regularly could lower the risk of death up to a 17%. In fact, this has been proven in a recent japanese study. Therefore, we could say that it has the ability to prolong our lifespan.
Heart and cholesterol
Oxidative stress is one of the main factors when it comes to the onset of arteriosclerosis. As we already know, the free radicals are responsible for the inflammatory processes that form the deposits.
Vitamin E plays an important role in arteriosclerosis. In fact, it has proven to be effective when it comes to increasing the resistance against oxidation and preventing the formation of deposits. This discovery is based on the studies conducted on people who follow a Mediterranean diet.
Moreover, it has been proven that taking supplementation lowers the risk factors that form said deposits. This is due to the fact that tocopherols inhibit the lipid peroxidation while tocotrienols inhibit the cholesterol synthesis. Consequently, they avoid the risk factors of cardiovascular problems.
Nevertheless, there is evidence from clinical trials that suggest that vitamin E supplements lower the risk of ischemic stroke. However, it increases the risk of suffering a hemorrhagic stroke.
This tends to happen to the elderly because it can inhibit the blood coagulation. Consequently, it increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Vitamin E is a lipophilic compound, meaning that it is fat soluble. This property improves its absorption by the brain cells. Therefore, it strengthens the cell walls against oxidative damage.
The oxidative stress produced by the free radicals can negatively affect female and male fertility. In fact, it can cause the following problems:
- Complications in the first weeks of pregnancy.
- Uterus lining inflammation (endometriosis) .
- Complications during labor.
- Premature labor.
- Loss of fertility with age.
Infertility conditioned by:
- Low quality of the spermatozoa
- Less motility of the spermatozoa
- Damage to the genetic material
Levels to increase the fertility
An 80% of fertility problems are due to male infertility due to the oxidative stress and bad quality of the sperm. An italian study found out that infertile men had lower vitamin E levels than fertile men. These low levels are directly connected to abnormal spermatozoa with less mobility.
Therefore, if we want to increase or improve the fertility, we need to avoid oxidative stress. Making sure that we get a proper supply of vitamin E will also be helpful.
A north-american study assessed the effects of antioxidants on women with fertility problems. The researchers found out that a high vitamin E supply could reduce the fertility problems, specially in women over the age of 35.
A systematic analysis of the scientific literature about antioxidants revealed other benefits for female fertility:
- It increases the percentage of births up to a 23%.
- It increases the conception rate up to an 11%.
The clinical studies have clearly proven that taking vitamin E and other antioxidants improves the quality of the semen and male fertility. Particularly, high serum concentrations in men over the age of 44 are directly connected to a 20% less damaged genetic material when compared to low or normal concentrations.
Men from couples that turn to assisted reproduction who take antioxidants have up to 4.8% more chances of succeeding.
A systematic analysis of the scientific literature confirms the beneficial effects on the quality of the sperm, its morphology and functioning of the spermatozoa. Increasing its intake also improves the ability of the spermatozoa to bind to the ovule, increasing the success percentage of assisted reproduction techniques.
Taking this substance for a long period of time can prevent age-related sight problems, such as cataracts. Said disease involves the opacity of the lens and they are the result of damage caused throughout many years.
In a long-term clinical study, those who took supplements for 10 years at least had a clearer ocular lens. On the contrary, those who did not take supplementation had a more deteriorated lens.
Vitamin E plays a very important role in preserving the skin. For instance, it strengthens the lining of the blood vessels from the skin, improving its hydration and elasticity. Another remarkable effect is its ability to reduce the inflammation at the cell level, which results in a more young-looking skin.
A constant exposure to the UV rays of the sun, as well as other external agents, such as smoke (tobacco, pollution), are factors that deteriorate the skin. This specially results in the onset of marks and wrinkles, and even other signs like acne and eczema. Vitamin E contributes to a fast regeneration of the epidermis (the external layer of the skin), effectively healing the damaged tissue.
Nevertheless, it is available in several forms in the skin. That is the reason why we need to combine different types. Moreover, we need to take into account that tocotrienols are more powerful antioxidants than tocopherols.
How does the skin get vitamin E?
It is a lipophilic vitamin, which means that it can easily go through the lipid layers of the skin. Consequently, it can enter the skin not online from the inside, but also from the outside.
However, its external use is quite unstable. The new research is trying to come up with a way to improve its external application. For instance, it is packed in nano-particles that are absorbed by the skin so that they are released directly on the skin.
Key for dermatology
In addition, it can help to treat several skin problems. Even though we do not known the exact process, it can help with the following cases:
- Yellow nails syndrome: This syndrome of unknown origin is related to growth disorders. The nails turn yellow and thick, to the point that they can accumulate liquid and lymphedema. A constant intake of vitamin E can help to treat this problem.
- Moreover, it is also used to treat certain eczema disorders and dermatitis, specially after using conventional treatments without success.
- It can effectively treat eczema, epidermolysis bullosa, as well as psoriasis and Hailey-Hailey disease.
Strengthening of the Hair
Fragility and hair loss are two very important aspects that we tend to pay attention to. This is due to the fact that they strongly shape our aspect. In this case, the regular intake of vitamin E can help us relieve said problems.
Among other functions, this vitamin can help with:
- Symptoms of the menstrual syndrome: less pain, anxiety, craving for sweets… It also regulates it
- Weight gain, liquid retention
- Skin changes
- Anxiety disorders
Around a 90% of fertile women suffer discomfort when their period gets close. The most common symptoms are headaches, irritability, nausea, abdominal cramps, depression and other symptoms.
Although most women only experience mild symptoms, between an 8% and 20% suffer the premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The symptoms are so severe that it can affect their day to day and relationships.
Depending on the effects and severity of the symptoms, the treatment will be either oral contraceptive pills, hormones or antidepressants.
Relief for the symptoms of PMS
Two high scale clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of vitamin E when it comes to relieving the premenstrual syndrome:
The first study gathered 130 women between the ages of 15 and 45. They took vitamin E for two months in order to relieve the premenstrual syndrome. In fact, it was proven that it was an effective treatment to relieve the symptoms. The main improvements were in terms of reducing the depression, anxiety and food cravings.
The second study gathered 155 women who suffered from moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome. The result was the same as in the previous study.
In both studies, vitamin E proved to be more effective than the placebo, physically and mentally. Sometimes, it was even more effective than vitamin B6.
It is crucial to take care of ourselves from the inside to see it reflected on the outside
Other benefits of vitamin E
Another benefit of vitamin E is its contribution to the energy production, the synthesis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). Thanks to its great antioxidant properties, it protects the cell membranes against oxidation.
It lowers the risk of other diseases
For a long time, the researchers have been trying to find out if it can inhibit cancer cells. This is based on the discovery that a deficiency increases the chances of having it. Moreover, the combination between C and D can have an even bigger protective effect.
Vitamin E can prevent some diseases
There are some risk groups that are susceptible to suffering a vitamin E deficiency:
- Pregnant and lactating women
- People with fat absorption disorders
- Patients and sick people
- Patients with senile dementia
- Those who suffer a deficiency or stress
- All those who take medicines permanently, like the contraceptive pill.
- Women who suffer the premenstrual syndrome.
- Diabetic people.
- Those who suffer a bile or pancreas disease.
Natural vitamin E
There are eight different forms of natural origin. They are divided in two groups of four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Both groups have the same central structure but different lateral structures.
In general, plants produce it along with fats. Alpha and gamma tocopherol are the most common forms. It is interesting since vegetable oils with a high alpha-tocopherol content tend to be combined with monounsaturated fatty acids, like olive oil. On the other hand, we can find a high essential polyunsaturated fatty acids with gamma tocopherol, for instance, in corn oil.
Alpha-tocopherol, the renowned form
The research is currently focusing on alpha-tocopherol. In fact, it is the most renowned vitamin E form in the organism. An alpha-tocopherol deficiency triggers ataxia (generic term used to refer to several coordination disorders). Said deficiency can only be fixed by taking alpha-tocopherol.
Actually, alpha-tocopherol prevails over any other form in the body and plasma concentration.
However, the results regarding the role of alpha-tocopherol are starting to question its absolute rule over other forms.
Tocotrienols: a slightly different form of vitamin E
The four tocotrienols are: alpha-tocotrienols, beta-tocotrienol, gamma-tocotrienol and delta-tocotrienol. Even though they are similar to tocopherols, they actually have a different chemical structure and biological function. The researchers are performing more tests on tocotrienols and they have reached the following conclusions:
- Tocotrienol, in its gamma and delta-tocopherol form, is an anti-inflammatory that helps to treat chronic disorders of the immune system.
- Increasing the serum concentrations of tocotrienols and gamma-tocopherol lowers the risk of age-related cognitive loss.
- Alpha-tocotrienol protects against the neurodegeneration and neurological disorders. Therefore, alpha-tocotrienol is the most effective form.
- Tocotrienols protect against the radiation.
According to the latest findings regarding other forms of vitamin E we need to review the product composition. According to this, the intake of alpha-tocopherol will prevent or fix a deficiency.
Vitamin E deficiency
These are some suspicious symptoms of a deficiency:
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of concentration
- More destroyed cell membranes
- Abnormal disposition of fat in the muscles
- Broken red blood cells
- More susceptibility to suffering infections
- Sight problems
- Lacklustre skin, age-related skin patches
- Inflammation and problems to health wounds
- Cardiovascular problems
Vitamin E excess
It is not possible to exceed a vitamin E dose, so it does not entail side effects. However, we suggest being careful and not take very high doses for a very long time.
The different results between the studies mean that there are other factors that increase the risk.
However, the National Institute of Health from the USA advises not exceed the following doses (expressed in IU / International Units):
|1 to 3 years||200 IU||200 IU|
|4 to 8 years||300 IU||300 IU|
|9 to 13 years||600 IU||600 IU|
|Adolescents and adults|
|14 to 18 years||800 IU||800 IU|
|19 years onward||1000 IU||1000 IU|
|Pregnant women||1000 IU|
|Lactating Women||1000 IU|
What is the daily amount of vitamin E?
The RDA or recommended daily amount is 30 international units. But this amount is not enough for active people, specially for athletes.
If we want to ensure that we get the best effects and protection, we need to be careful with the amount we take. Moreover, the daily intake will depend on the age. In addition, the body needs more during pregnancy and lactating. Actually, in these cases we need to take dietary supplements to meet the needs.
In this case, nutritionists suggest the following doses to meet the tocopherol requirements (mg per day):
|0 to 4 months||3||3|
|4 to 12 months||4||4|
|1 to 4 years||6||5|
|4 to 7 years||8||8|
|7 to 10 years||10||9|
|10 to 13 years||13||11|
|13 to 15 years||14||12|
|Adolescents and adults|
|15 to 19 years||15||12|
|19 to 25 years||15||12|
|25 to 51 years||14||12|
|51 to 65 years||12||12|
|65 years onward||11|
Moreover, we need to have the following conversion rates when indicating the dose in international units:
- 1mg of alpha-tocopherol equals 1.49 IU of natural tocopherol or 2.22 IU of synthetic tocopherol.
- 1 IU equals 0.67mg of alpha-tocopherol.
- 1 IU of synthetic tocopherol equals 0.45mg of alpha-tocopherol.
Contraindications of vitamin E
When compared to other fat soluble vitamins, it has a relatively low toxicity when taken orally. In fact, many people take doses over the RDA without experiencing side effects due to its pro-fertility properties and effects on the sexual potency.
However, high amounts for long periods of time can interfere with the activity of K. Consequently, it could trigger blood coagulation problems.
The supplements improve the hepatic function, increasing the breakdown of medicines that the liver metabolizes. Some of this medicines are: lovastatin, ketoconazole, itraconazole and other prescribed medications.
Vitamin E and sport
Like with other vitamins, the studies have proven that a proper intake contributes to preserving our health. Therefore, it can improve our physical performance. However, there is evidence that a higher dose than the RDA in endurance athletes can help to improve their marks.
An higher dose can improve the recovery and muscle work, specially after an injury or surgery or to buffer the DOMS and damage to the muscles.
It is present in the cell membranes of the brain and muscles, the exact place where our body produces oxygen radicals. Therefore, it works like an antioxidant shield that helps to protect the cells against oxidative damage, apart from providing antioxidant enzymes and molecules.
Vitamin E supplementation helps to prevent the oxidative damage caused by physical exercise.
Moreover, it has shown to increase the creatine kinase levels, which is a biomarker for muscle recovery.
Combination of Vitamin E and C
E and C are two vitamins that work together to produce the best antioxidant effect.
The body needs enough vitamin C in order to take advantage of all the properties of E. This is due to the fact that the former regenerate the second one when it oxidizes.
Their interaction also reduces the oxidative stress that happens when we do a great effort that can damage the skeletal muscle.
As always, from HSN we suggest consulting your doctor before taking any supplement.
What do the experts think about Vitamin E
It inhibits the onset of cholesterol
A clinical study conducted on 40000 participants revealed that the LDL cholesterol is harmless. That is, as long as we have enough resources to counter it. In fact, the participants of the study who took this substance regularly experienced less heart problems in a 37%.
A deficiency during pregnancy can cause asthma in children
Actually, the latest research has proven how the children from pregnant women who take low amounts have higher chances of suffering asthma in the future.
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