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.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research