Is vitamin E all that it’s cracked up to be? Vitamin E serves many biological roles within the human body, due to its antioxidant capabilities, which have been shown to benefit immunity and chronic age-related disease. Although vitamin E has been associated with the ability to protect cells from free radical damage and reduce the risk of chronic disease, study results have been unsubstantiated, often with conflicting and inconsistent outcomes. We’re going to discuss the benefits of vitamin E and its role within your biology to determine whether or not it deserves a spot within your daily regimen.
Vitamin E is actually a collective term given to a group of eight fat-soluble vitamins known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Vitamin E plays an essential role in your immune system and acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants work to scavenge free radicals from oxidizing and damaging your body’s cells. Over time free radicals can cause damage in the form of oxidative stress. Research indicates that oxidative stress contributes to the aging process and chronic disease states like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Since Vitamin E is an essential nutrient and cannot be synthesized by your body, it must be obtained from food or supplements. Vitamin E is found in various foods and oils, such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
Due to its potent antioxidant effects, studies have shown that vitamin E can be very effective in the prevention of several age-related chronic disease states.
It’s been proven that vitamin E stimulates and benefits immunity, by enhancing your body’s defenses. Studies have shown that supplementation with vitamin E, significantly improves antibody response and enhances resistance to viral disease [R].
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Researchers have found that supplementation with 100mg of vitamin E per day leads to a reduction in several risk factors associated with heart disease specifically arterial clogging, plaque, platelet aggregation, and cholesterol [R].
However recent animal studies of these benefits is varied and large interventional clinical trials have shown limited cardiovascular benefits from vitamin E supplementation [R].
Vitamin E has shown to have anti-cancer properties. The exact etiology consists of various functions which include the stimulation of the wild-type p53 tumor suppressor gene; the down regulation of mutant p53 proteins; the activation of heat shock proteins, and an anti-angiogenic effect mediated by the blockage of transforming growth factor alpha [R].
Alpha, gamma, and delta-tocopherol have all been found to inhibit cancer cell growth [R].
Again however, the benefits of vitamin E and its role in cancer remains controversial. reports from the Cancer Institute of New Jersey show that gamma- and delta-tocopherols can prevent colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers, while alpha-tocopherol had no such effect. Additionally, human clinical trials investigating the effects of and association between vitamin E and cancer have found that vitamin E is not beneficial in most cases.
Several studies have shown that vitamin E is integral to eye health. Cataracts and macular degeneration are one of the most common causes of age-related vision loss. Cataracts occur due to the accumulation of damaged proteins from free radicals. One study found that those who took vitamin E supplements or with higher blood levels of vitamin E, had superior lens clarity as compared to those who did not. However, in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), vitamin E had no apparent effect on cataract development/progression over an average of 6.3 years. Currently, the available evidence is insufficient to conclude taken alone can reduce the risk of cataract formation [R].
Vitamin E deficiency is extremely rare. Deficiencies are nearly exclusive to those with an inherited or acquired condition that impairs their ability to absorb the vitamin and in those who cannot absorb dietary fat such as cystic fibrosis, and chrons disease. Vitamin E is readily available in many foods commonly found in the diet, such as vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, and some citrus fruits, and therefore can be easily obtained. One ounce of almonds or sunflower seeds, contains nearly 50% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin E.
Daily supplementation of 15mg is considered safe and efficacious. In the rare event vitamin E is used to treat a deficiency, doses may range between 60-75mg per day.
Excessive vitamin E intake can lead to blood thinning, increased risk of stroke and bleeding in the brain.
Although vitamin E possesses potent antioxidant properties, and can support immune health, research largely remains inconclusive and inconsistent. Further interventional studies are needed to determine the role of vitamin E and its perceived association with chronic disease states such cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Most people get an adequate level of vitamin E through their diet, making supplementation irrelevant. Overdosing can lead to possible side effects and should be taken with caution.
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Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of tocopherols and tocotrienols on preneoplastic and neoplastic mouse mammary epithelial cells. McIntyre BS, Briski KP, Gapor A, Sylvester PW Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000 Sep; 224(4):292-301. [PubMed] [Ref list]
gamma-tocopherol traps mutagenic electrophiles such as NO(X) and complements alpha-tocopherol: physiological implications.Christen S, Woodall AA, Shigenaga MK, Southwell-Keely PT, Duncan MW, Ames BN Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 1; 94(7):3217-22. [PubMed] [Ref list]
Suppression of prostate cancer in a transgenic rat model via gamma-tocopherol activation of caspase signaling.Takahashi S, Takeshita K, Seeni A, Sugiura S, Tang M, Sato SY, Kuriyama H, Nakadate M, Abe K, Maeno Y, Nagao M, Shirai T Prostate. 2009 May 1; 69(6):644-51. [PubMed] [Ref list]
Secreted forms of beta-amyloid precursor protein protect hippocampal neurons against amyloid beta-peptide-induced oxidative injury. Goodman Y, Mattson MP Exp Neurol. 1994 Jul; 128(1):1-12. [PubMed] [Ref list]
Rizvi, Saliha et al. “The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases.” Sultan Qaboos University medical journal vol. 14,2 (2014): e157-65.