Last Updated June 13th, 2021
What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E is one of the most essential fat-soluble vitamins for the body. Vitamin E is key for building strong immunity and for healthy eyes and skin. Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties. These properties may be the reason why people take Vitamin E supplements to try to cure diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes etc. However, the research on its effectiveness has not been positive. In other words, vitamin E is still not effective in treating these health conditions.
How do you get a deficiency of vitamin E?
You need to take the supplement for vitamin E only if you are deficient in vitamin E. Most people are not deficient in this vitamin. Those who are deficient in vitamin E are people with issues such as digestive problems or diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
People on a very low-fat diet could also suffer from a deficiency of vitamin E. This is because vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and if there are not enough fats in the diet, the absorption of vitamin E will be affected.
The deficiency of vitamin E could also be a result of genetic disorders. It is also known to occur in premature infants.
How do you get vitamin E?
You can get your recommended daily allowance of vitamin E by having a balanced diet and including leafy greens, certain vegetables, and fruits. It is also found in wheat germ oil, cereals, meat, eggs, and nuts. If you are unable to get enough of vitamin E from your diet, you might also have to take vitamin E supplements also.
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin E is 15 mg/day. A higher dose may be recommended by the doctor to treat certain conditions arising out of a deficiency of vitamin E. The tolerable upper levels of vitamin E are 1000 mg/day.
What are the benefits of vitamin E?
There are four tocopherols and four tocotrienols in the vitamin E family. Tocopherols and tocotrienols are different classes of organic compounds. The tocopherol α-tocopherol, one of the forms of Vitamin E, is necessary for the body. However, as long as the deficiency is taken care of, its administration actually does not prevent any conditions from occurring.
The tocopherols γ-tocopherol (γT) and δ-tocopherol (δT) and the tocotrienol γ-tocotrienol (γTE) are other forms of vitamin E that have been investigated. They have been proven to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are more useful to the body than those of α-tocopherol are. The benefits of vitamin E are discussed under the following headings, each representing a disease or condition.
Vitamin E and Ataxia
Ataxia is a genetic movement disorder that affects the nervous system. It leads to a total loss of control over the movements of the body. It usually results from damage to the part of the brain that is responsible for muscle coordination, the cerebellum. It could be a result of head trauma, alcohol abuse, genetic disorders, stroke, cerebral palsy, etc. It also leads to severe vitamin E deficiency as well.
The treatment of ataxia involves lifelong supplementation with vitamin E. This would help to even reverse some of the symptoms of ataxia in the early stages of the disease. In the later stages of the disease, or in older people, it may slow the progression of the disease.
There are several support groups for ataxia. Through them, it is possible to find resources that help with the treatment of the condition. You could also find organizations that help take care of individuals with the disease, and to doctors and clinics that can help treat or manage the disease.
Vitamin E and Alzheimer’s disease
Vitamin E has not been proven effective in preventing memory loss or loss of cognitive ability as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. It only helps to slow down the progress of the disease though it does not really halt the progress of cognitive impairment. This slowing down of the impairment might prevent a need for caregiver assistance for a short while at least. Further, taking vitamin E with other antioxidants or anti-inflammatory drugs may also increase its overall efficacy in treating the disease.
Vitamin E and fatty liver disease
Research is still underway to prove if vitamin E supplements could be useful in preventing fatty liver disease. However, results are still inconclusive and no benefits have been noted. It says that the improvements observed after two years was related to insulin resistance.
Vitamin E and preeclampsia
Taking vitamin E has not proven to be effective in treating preeclampsia, a condition associated with pregnancy that is related to high blood pressure.
Vitamin E and Tardive Dyskinesia
It has been observed that vitamin E supplementation may help treat tardive dyskinesia in those with schizophrenia. These supplements may have helped offset the effects of the antipsychotics used in the treatment of those with the illness. The same study also suggests that Vitamin E could be used to prevent tardive dyskinesia from ever occurring in these patients. However, there is only limited research into the possible management of tardive dyskinesia and more studies are necessary before vitamin E supplementation can be fully recommended.
Vitamin E and Asthma
Vitamin E and vitamin C have been found beneficial in the treatment of asthma. They have both been found to decrease the fluid in the airways of asthmatics. Therefore, the use of vitamin E and vitamin C supplements may be useful in the treatment of asthma. Vitamin E might help with the treatment of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, as well. Hay fever is a condition marked by a response by the body to allergens in the air leading to itchy skin and watery eyes etc.
Vitamin E and cancer prevention
As expected, γ-tocopherol, δ-tocopherol, γ-tocotrienol, and δ-tocotrienol have more anticancer properties than α-tocopherol. Further, these forms and metabolites of vitamin E directly target the cancer cells, preventing their proliferation and destroying them. Tocotrienols also boost immunity, which further aids in preventing cancer.
In studies conducted on mice, it was proven that tocotrienol supplementation helps in the proliferation of lymphocytes, which then helps the body fight cancer more effectively. The tocotrienols γ-tocotrienol and δ-tocotrienol have also been used in several studies to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic drugs.
In a review of several studies, it was also observed that there were no side effects to the use of vitamin E in cancer therapy. However, the symptoms of prostate cancer are not improved by the use of vitamin E but actually made worse. This poses a question on the usefulness of the forms of vitamin E in the treatment of cancer.
Vitamin E and atherosclerosis
Long-term supplementation with vitamin E helped improve the condition of atherosclerosis in mice, but not when they were fed a diet high in fats and carbohydrates. When the mice were fed a low-fat low-carbohydrate diet, the supplementation with vitamin E improved survival rates by 88%. The aortic lesions were also fewer in the mice that were supplemented with vitamin E and fed a low-fat low carbohydrate diet.
Another animal study has also suggested that vitamin E supplementation during pregnancy could help prevent atherosclerosis in later life.
However, there is no study as of now that helps determine the preventive action of taking vitamin E supplements from a young age on coronary heart disease. Most of the clinical trials with vitamin E have been conducted on elderly people who already have coronary heart disease.
Vitamin E and Sarcopenia
Sarcopenia is a geriatric syndrome that is associated with the loss of muscle mass and strength with increasing age. Oxidative stress is considered the main risk factor for sarcopenia with increasing age. So, if you can get rid of the reactive oxygen species, then it is possible to reduce the risk of sarcopenia. The antioxidant properties of vitamin E show promise in its treatment for sarcopenia. Though there is a link between muscular health and vitamin E, the studies are not as conclusive as those for cardiovascular diseases or neurodegenerative diseases are.
Vitamin E and Infertility
It has been observed in many studies that a deficiency of vitamin E leads to impaired fertility in both humans. In a study conducted on poultry, it was observed that a significant supplementation of vitamin E in the diet of the birds improved the characteristics of both semen as well as sperm. This happened via a decrease in the peroxidation of lipids (the oxidative degeneration of lipids) in the sperm and the semen of the birds.
Side effects of excess vitamin E
The good news is that vitamin E is likely safe for daily consumption when only up to the recommended daily intake of 15 mg is taken. It is also safe for application to the skin in small quantities every day. If you ingest high doses of vitamin E, it could be unsafe. It might not only lead to death but also increase the likelihood of other serious effects.
There is a chance that an excess of vitamin E may increase the chances of a hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding into the brain. In higher doses, the likelihood of a hemorrhagic stroke increases. However, it has been observed that higher doses also reduce the likelihood of another kind of stroke called an ischemic stroke.
Initially, research had suggested that the risk of prostate cancer might be reduced by taking vitamin E. However, more recent research has shown that those who take multivitamins and also take vitamin E run a higher risk of getting prostate cancer.
After angioplasty, avoid taking vitamins with antioxidant properties like vitamin E (or vitamin B or vitamin C), as this may interfere with the healing characteristics of the tissues.
It can also induce heart failure in those with diabetes.
Vitamin E and Pregnancy
Vitamin E in small amounts is okay for pregnant women. However, there is no research to substantiate its safety in early pregnancy. It is therefore recommended that you consult a doctor before taking vitamin E in the early stages of your pregnancy.
Vitamin E and children
It is safe to give small doses of vitamin E to children. The dose to be given depends on the age of the child, with a maximum possible dose increasing with age. Vitamin E must never be administered in high doses intravenously in premature children. This could be unsafe.
How necessary is vitamin E?
Though vitamin E is an essential vitamin, some people seem to have a deficiency of it. Taking supplements that are rich in vitamin E will help overcome this deficiency. In certain cases, it might have additional benefits as well. More research is needed to determine how good vitamin E is really for serious health conditions. For what it is worth, you still need good amounts of it. Make sure you follow a diet that is balanced and rich in all essential vitamins and minerals.
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