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Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

The evidence keeps piling up -- vitamin E, although rarely deficient in people in our society, has additional benefits in higher-than-dietary doses. 

Vitamin E protects the heart, improves the immune system, protects against cataracts and may even be of service in the fight against cancer and Alzheimer's Disease.

What is Vitamin E?
A fat soluble vitamin, vitamin E is dissolved in fat, and is carried throughout the bloodstream and body attached to lipids. It is stored in adipose tissue, so a daily dose is not critical. As opposed to other fat soluble vitamins like A and D, vitamin E has not been shown to be toxic in high doses. People on anti-coagulant therapy, however, such as those who take the medication Coumadin, should be cautious about vitamin E intake. They may be increasing their risk of bleeding if they are also taking high doses of vitamin E, and/or fish oil tablets.

Vitamins E is actually a group of substances known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. The amount of vitamin E present in food or tissue is stated in terms of alpha-tocopherol equivalents (TE) or as International units (IU). Alpha tocopherol is the most potent form, as compared to the beta, gamma, and delta tocopherol forms. Research indicates that natural vitamin E is more potent and also better retained by the body than synthetic E.

How Much do I Need?
The adult RDA is 8 to 10 milligrams of vitamin E. This is easy to achieve with diet alone. However, there is considerable research that suggests supplemental vitamin E for its antioxidant protection, at levels of 100 to 400 IU. Following a low-fat diet would make this level difficult, and copious amounts of oil would need to be consumes to reach these therapeutic levels.

What are Food Sources of Vitamin E?

Vitamin E in Foods
Food Portion Vit E (IU)
wheat germ oil 1 tablespoon 25
sunflower seeds 1 ounce 21
almonds 1 ounce 11
sunflower oil 1 tablespoon 10
safflower oil 1 tablespoon 8
soybean oil 1 tablespoon 2
peanuts 1 ounce 3
avocado 1 medium 3
spinach 1 cup (raw) 2

What Health Problems are Aided by Vitamin E?

  • Heart Disease -- Vitamin E has a strong protective role in the reduction of atherosclerosis by preventing oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This antioxidant activity discourages the buildup of plaque on artery walls and the formation of blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes.

  • Cancer -- Free radicals play a role in the initiation and promotion of cancer. Studies show that cancer risk is lower in people with the highest vitamin E intake.

  • Immune System -- Researchers suggest that vitamin E can boost immunity by protecting against cell damage that reduces the body's ability to fight infection. This is particularly important in the elderly. Vitamin E may also play a role in delaying the advance of Alzheimer's Disease.

  • Cataract Risk -- The antioxidant activity of vitamin E can reduce cataract risk by 50 percent or more, as reported by the Longitudinal Study of Cataract Group as well as other investigations.

  • Air Pollution -- Whether it be smog or smoking, the free radical destruction of red blood cells is protected by vitamin E supplementation.
Research continues to demonstrate the antioxidant protection of vitamin E from free radical damage that is the beginning of major degenerative diseases. Most studies use supplementation of 100 IU to 400 IU of vitamin E to get positive results. Larger amounts did not exhibit greater benefits. Vitamin E will not cure everything, but in doses larger than the RDA, it is not harmful and potentially beneficial.
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