Vitamin E comprises a group of fat-soluble compounds, that help in protecting the body cells against the harmful effects of free radicals. This article provides some interesting facts about the vitamin.
Vitamin E exists in eight antioxidant forms – four tocopherols (alpha/α-, beta/β-, gamma/γ-, and delta/δ-) and four tocotrienols (alpha/α-, beta/β-, gamma/γ-, and delta/δ-). Among these, alpha-tocopherol plays an active role in the body metabolism. In fact, this form is found in high quantities in the blood and body cells. Extensive studies have been carried out on α-tocopherol. In general, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this vitamin is available in α-tocopherol.
Vitamin E plays a major role in the formation of red blood cells (RBCs) and activation of vitamin K. It prevents the oxidation of essential fatty acids and vitamin A inside the body. Also, it protects the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light.
It is found naturally in various foods such as milk, eggs, seeds and nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grain foods. Some excellent sources of this fat-soluble vitamin are spinach, mustard leaves, turnip, and sunflower seeds. It is also available as a nutritional supplement in the form of tablets and capsules. The supplements are available in natural or synthetic forms, which can be identified from the label. The natural supplements are labeled with the letter ‘d’, whereas the synthetic ones are labeled with ‘dl’. For example; d-alpha-tocopherol is natural, and dl-alpha-tocopherol is synthetic.
Free radicals are unstable compounds generated from the metabolism process, as well as exposure to environmental factors like smoke and hazardous chemicals. These free radicals have the potential to damage the body cells by oxidizing the fats present in the cell membranes. Vitamin E, a fat soluble antioxidant, helps in combating the damaging effects of free radicals, by preventing their entry inside the cell.
The RDA for adults is 15 mg/day. The requirements may vary, depending upon the age, sex, and other health factors like pregnancy. The best option to get the daily recommended dose is to consume a balanced diet that contains foods rich in this vitamin. Though their deficiency is rare, it may occur among people with fat metabolism disorder, and those who are born premature with low birth weight. Furthermore, the deficiency would cause various problems related to the eyes, nervous system, liver, gallbladder, and digestion process. It may also result in the loss of sensation in the arms, hands, and legs.
Regular intake of these supplements in high doses may lead to bleeding disorders. People who take blood-thinning drugs, and those who suffer from vitamin K deficiency are at a higher risk of heavy bleeding problems than others. Hence, it is always advisable to take these supplements under medical supervision, especially in the cases of high doses for a prolonged duration.
Treatment of Diseases
Due to its strong antioxidant property, it has been proposed for the treatment of various ailments. According to the medical study conducted on the relation between vitamin E and breast cancer, this vitamin helps in preventing the onset of predisposed breast cancer. However, as of now, there is no proven scientific report on the therapeutic uses of it (except in treating vitamin E deficiency). Currently, research studies are being conducted on the benefits of this vitamin in the treatment of chronic health conditions like heart diseases and cancer.
Disclaimer: This NutriNeat article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.