What is Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant. This means it protects body tissue from damage caused by substances called free radicals, which can harm cells, tissues, and organs. They are believed to play a role in certain conditions related to aging.
Vitamin E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and it helps the body use vitamin K. It also helps widen blood vessels and keep blood from clotting inside them. On top of that the body also needs vitamin E to help keep the immune system strong against viruses and bacteria.
In epidemiological studies, higher intakes of vitamin E have been related to reduction in cardiovascular disease, diabetic, certain cancers and cataracts. (1)
It is estimated that >90% of Americans do not consume sufficient dietary vitamin E, as α-tocopherol, to meet estimated average requirements. (2)
Deficiency of Vitamin E
Symptoms not very clear cut, but may include fatigue, inflamed varicose veins, wounds healing slowly, premature aging and sub-fertility, acne, anemia, muscle disease, dementia, cancers, gallstones, shortened red blood cell life span, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), and uterine degeneration
Without sufficient E in the body, the essential fatty acids are altered so that blood cells break down and hemoglobin formation is impaired. Several amino acids cannot be utilized, and pituitary and adrenal glands reduce their level of functioning, iron absorption and hemoglobin formation are impaired.
The average diet today contains much less natural vitamin E than it did 50 years ago. This is partially due to lack of nutrients in the soil as well as use of farming pesticides.
Where is Vitamin E found?
Vitamin E is found in nuts, oils, vegetables, sunflower seeds, whole grains, spinach, oils, seeds, wheat oils, asparagus, avocado, beef, seafood, apples, carrots, celery, etc .
Vitamin E is lost in food processing which includes milling, cooking, freezing, long storage periods and when exposed to air. Vitamin E should not be taken together with inorganic iron supplements as it may destroy the vitamin, while organic iron, such as ferrous gluconate and ferrous fumarate does not affect the vitamin.
Vitamin E in Pregnancy:
Vitamin E is important for the development of your baby
1. Vitamin E for Baby's Brain Health
Vitamin E is critical to the early development of an embryo's nervous system. Part of the reason is because one of its function is to protect the Omega-3 fatty acids functioning, in particularly DHA and DHA is crucial for brain health
2. Development of Eyes and Head
When it comes to embryo nervous system development, one of the most important parts are the eyes and head. Correct amount (not too much of Vitamin E) will assist in healthy development
3. Stunting of Growth
Deficiency of Vitamin E during pregnancy can cause stunted growth
4. Improved cognitive function
Higher concentration of Vitamin E at birth has been associated with superior cognitive function at the age of 2 years old. (2)
How about supplements?
Look out for "d-alpha-tocopherol" on the list of ingredients - that means that the Vitamin E is from natural sources, whereas "dl-alpha-tocopherol" will indicate that it is synthetic.
Recommended daily intake
So what are the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E? For adults older than 18 years, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women, the maximum dose is 1,000 milligrams daily (or 1,500 IU).
2. Traber MG. Vitamin E inadequacy in humans: causes and consequences. Adv Nutr.
2014 Sep;5(5):503-14. Review.
Alzheimer's Disease is the number one cause of dementia (70% of cases). Causes include cardiovascular events whereby there is reduced blood flow to the brain, aging, genetics, etc. Risk factors include older age, family history, having Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), abnormal MRI, history of cardiovascular disease.
Associated with multiple changes including:
- Cognitive Differences ( difficulty finding words, disorientation, forgetfulness etc)
- A reduction in Daily Functioning ( getting lost, neglecting self care)
- Personality Changes ( social withdrawal, disinterest, easy frustration)
- Problem Behaviors ( obsessive/compulsive behavior, nightime restlessness)
- Mental Health Issues ( depression, paranoia, abnormal beliefs, anxiety etc)
To slow the disease:
1. Vitamin E (as dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate) 1000IU twice a day
Based on a large clinical trial published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a 5 year study with more than 600 participants showed that the Vitamin E group, taking 2000IU of Vitamin E per day, experienced significant delay of more than 6 months in progression of the disease (1). On top of that caregiver time also decreased by 2 hours each day which means better quality of life for both the patient and the caregiver.
2. Panax Ginseng or Korean Red Ginseng
The primary active ingredients in ginseng are ginsenosides and there are 7 main ones found in dietary supplements namely Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, Rf and Rg1. Some of them have been shown in laboratories to be able to reduce levels of a compound called amyloid beta peptide which is found in brains of Alzheimer's patients. Moreover it also improves blood flow.
3. Omega-3 Supplements
May improve the appetite and weight gain in Alzheimer's patients. They might even help with reducing depressive symptoms.
4. Lifestyle Changes
This includes finding the right protein, fat, and carb balance. Studies have shown that diet high in lean protein and healthy fats may protect against mild cognitive impairment. On top of that, more exercise not just physically but also mentally are really important. Play more crossword puzzles and reading will reduce the risk of AD. Lastly, make sure to take time to de-stress as chronic stress can increase the amount of stress steroids in your body and this can block brain activities as well as increase risk of AD.
It is important to remember in Alzheimer that heart healthy = brain healthy so prevention is extremely important.
1. Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, et al. Effect of Vitamin E and Memantine on Functional Decline in Alzheimer Disease: The TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. JAMA.2014;311(1):33-44. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.282834.
All nuts have different nutrition credentials and will offer various health benefits. Frequent nut consumption has been associated with better metabolic status, decreased body weight as well as lower body weight gain over time and thus reduce the risk of obesity (1). Moreover, nut consumption has been linked with reduced risk of certain cancers (such as colorectal, endometrial, and pancreatic neoplasms) and protects against depression, mild cognitive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here's a rundown of a couple of our favourite nuts:
1. Grosso G, Estruch R. Nut consumption and age-related disease. Maturitas. 2016 Feb;84:11-6. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.10.014. Epub 2015 Nov 2. Review. PubMed PMID: 26586104.
2. Wien MA, Sabaté JM, Iklé DN, Cole SE, Kandeel FR. Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Nov;27(11):1365-72. Erratum in: Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004
Mar;28(3):459. PubMed PMID: 14574348.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals. Several studies have been performed in relation to fertility health, revealing its importance for reproductive function and health.
A study published by Fertility and Sterility in April, 2010, showed that vitamin E supplementation may aid in increasing the thickness of the endometrium in women with thin uterine lining of <8mm (1). Researchers also wanted to see if this supplement could increase uterine radial artery (uRA) blood flow. Results showed Vitamin E given at 600mg a day increased uRA in 72% of patients and endometrial thickness (EM) in 52% of patients
In a more recent study published in 2015 , Vitamin E has been linked with miscarriage whereby researchers looked at two forms of vitamin E – alpha-tocopherol (the most active form of the vitamin in the body) and gamma-tocopherol. Nearly three out of four women in the study had what was considered vitamin E deficiency, with low alpha-tocopherol levels. When looking at alpha-tocopherol, 5.2 percent of women with adequate levels in their blood miscarried in the first or second trimester as compared with 10.2 percent of women who miscarried with low levels (2).
“For nearly a century, we have known about vitamin E and its role in the fertility of animals,” says one of the study’s leaders, Kerry Schulze, PhD, an associate scientist in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Furthermore “Vitamin deficiencies are considered a form of hidden hunger because they are not readily apparent but they can have huge health consequences,” Schulze says. “What we really want to do is optimize health before women become pregnant, because if they don’t start with a good vitamin E status, they are at a high risk of negative outcomes.”
Vitamin E should be taken before and during pregnancy as it has also been shown that Vitamin E administered antenatally can result in a higher level of natural antioxidants in children's body (3).
Please note that Vitamin E supplements may be harmful for people who take blood thinners and other medicines. Check with your health care provider before taking the supplements.
1. Takasaki A, Tamura H, Miwa I, Taketani T, Shimamura K, Sugino N (April 2010). “Endometrial growth and uterine blood flow: a pilot study for improving endometrial thickness in the patients with a thin endometrium”. Fertil. Steril. 93 (6): 1851–8. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.12.062. PMID 19200982.
2. Shamim AA, Schulze K, Merrill RD, Kabir A, Christian P, Shaikh S, Wu L, Ali H, Labrique AB, Mehra S, Klemm RD, Rashid M, Sungpuag P, Udomkesmalee E, West KP Jr.
First-trimester plasma tocopherols are associated with risk of miscarriage in rural Bangladesh. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):294-301. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.094920. Epub 2014 Nov 26. PubMed PMID: 25646326.
3. Kukushkina IP, Dmitrieva NV. [Evaluation of the effect of vitamin E on the fetus and newborn baby]. Pediatriia. 1991;(5):13-6. Russian. PubMed PMID: 1866229.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research