Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, is a leading antioxidant. It is one of the fat-soluble vitamins that can build up in the body. A synthetic form of vitamin E is available, and your doctor can also recommend vitamin E injections.
Vitamin E is powerful and protects cell membranes against damage caused by free radicals and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Because of this ability to inhibit the natural cell destruction that occurs with age, vitamin E is tested as a treatment for many of the chronic diseases of the elderly.
In addition to preventing the oxidation of cells and tissues, vitamin E helps to prevent blood clots, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
It may also inhibit development of some types of cancer; and it is needed for production of normal red blood cells. It helps children grow and develop normally and is used to treat vitamin E deficiency in premature or low birth-weight babies.
Vitamin E deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency is rare in humans. People who cannot absorb dietary fat or who have rare disorders of fat metabolism cannot absorb vitamin E.
Premature or very low birth-weight infants and individuals with rare genetic abnormalities in the alpha-tocopherol transfer protein may also be at risk of vitamin E deficiency.
Symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency include greasy stools, chronic diarrhoea and inability to secrete bile.
Even at doses of 1,500 IU per day, vitamin E has no harmful effects. However, at doses of 2,400 IU per day, it may cause bleeding problems due to its clot prevent ability.
Too much Vitamin E may also reduce your body’s supply of vitamin A, alter the immune system, and weaken sexual function.
The recommended daily intake for adults over 14 is 15 milligrams (or 22.5 IU); for pregnant women of any age, it is 15 milligrams (or 22.5 IU), and for breast-feeding women of any age, it is 19 milligrams (or 28.5 IU). For adults, pregnant women, and breast-feeding women, the maximum dose is 1,000 milligrams daily (or 1,500 IU).
Best dietary sources
Vegetable oils, including corns, cottonseed, and peanut oils, are the best sources of vitamin E. Almonds, hazelnuts, nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, whole-wheat flour, and margarine are also rich in vitamin E. Various fruits and vegetables-spinach, lettuce, onions, blackberries, apples, and pears also contain vitamin E.
Other special considerations?
• Because vitamin E is fat-soluble, it’s best absorbed when taken with a meal containing some fat.
• Vitamin E loses its strength when exposed to air, heat, and light, so supplements should be stored in a dark, cool place.
• People who are taking anticoagulants (blood thinners or aspirin) should take vitamin E supplements only under physician supervision.
• High doses of vitamin E may increase the body’s vitamin K requirement, and increased intake of omega-6 fatty acids may increase vitamin E requirements.