Practical Vitamin E Health Benefits

Practical Vitamin E Health Benefits

Practical Vitamin E Health Benefits

What Is Vitamin E?

vitamin E health benefits can be found in nutsNaturally occurring vitamin E is not actually a single compound. It is a collection of eight fat-soluble compounds. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored by the body for a time and retrieved for use later. Of the eight compounds, four are tocopherol isoforms and four are tocotrienol isoforms.

One of the tocopherol isoforms – alpha-tocopherol – is the one that the human body needs and uses the most. Alpha-tocopherol is the compound referred to in this article when discussing vitamin E health benefits, though we will also cover some new and exciting research into the tocotrienol isoforms.

It is found in the liver incorporated into lipoproteins that transport it through the blood to other tissues in the body. Lipoproteins are compounds composed of fats and proteins that transport fat through the blood. For example, LDL is the lipoprotein that transports cholesterol from the liver to the tissues, and that is why it is associated with heart disease.
Vitamin E: Top Antioxidant

The prominent beneficial action of vitamin E is its antioxidant activity. For example, fats in the body can be damaged through lipid peroxidation from free radicals, but vitamin E neutralizes the free radicals and stops lipid oxidation.

Free radicals, which are also called reactive oxygen species, are unstable molecules that are missing an electron, and so as they travel through the body, they begin stealing these missing electrons from other molecules, destabilizing these molecules and turning them into free radicals as well. When this keeps repeating, you get oxidative stress and oxidative damage.

Although your body creates free radicals naturally when converting food to energy, and you are constantly exposed to free radicals from your environment, from air pollution, from first-hand or second-hand cigarette smoke, and from UV radiation from the sun, if your system doesn’t have enough antioxidants to deal with these free radicals, the oxidative stress begins to accumulate and it runs the risk of damaging your cells.

Oxidative stress has been associated with inflammation, chronic disease, neurodegeneration, adrenal fatigue, and different types of cancers. It’s also one of the main factors in premature aging and age-related disorders. That’s why a focus of anti-aging and regenerative medicine is on reducing oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant activity in the body.

Antioxidants are compounds that can lend electrons to free radicals and therefore stabilize them in the process, and some of the more well-known ones are vitamin C, glutathione and vitamin E. One of the vitamin E health benefits is that it’s a fat-soluble antioxidant, so it can help stop the formation of free radicals when fat is oxidized.

It’s interesting to note that, although the antioxidant properties of vitamin E are important to counteract the oxidation of adipose tissue, they’re even more important when it comes to your cells’ bio-membranes. Your cells’ bio-membranes are made up of phosphate groups on the outside and lipids on the inside, and if these lipids on the inside begin to oxidize, the health risks are quite significant. This is even more so if the DNA inside also begins to oxidize. Half of the lipids in your body are located in the lining of your cell walls, and 95% of the antioxidants that protect these cell membranes are vitamin E.
Vitamin E Deficiency

An image of foods to help with vitamin E deficiencySerious vitamin E deficiency is quite rare. It can be caused by malnutrition or genetic defects that interfere with the transportation of fat-soluble compounds. People with fat malabsorption syndromes (where the body has a difficult time absorbing fats) are at risk for vitamin E deficiency, such as those with celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, those who have had their gallbladders removed, those with chronic pancreatitis, and those with cholestatic liver disease.

Because neurons, like other cells, are encapsulated in lipid sheaths, a lack of vitamin E can impact these sheaths, allowing the lipid to oxidize and creating a lot of neurological problems. As you’ll see, most signs and symptoms of vitamin E deficiency are related to a deterioration in the functions of the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Some of these symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include:

Muscle weakness. That’s because vitamin E is needed for the CNS to function properly, which can lead to the muscles getting weaker.
Numbness or tingling in the extremities. This is a type of neuropathy that is a result of nerve damage, where the nerves don’t signal accurately. This is also common in those with diabetes.
Difficulty with walking and coordination. Nerve damage, specifically to Purkinje neurons, creates difficulty with coordinating movement, such as walking.
Problems with vision. Again, as the eye is part of the nervous system and vitamin E deficiency affects the nerve cells, the light receptors in the retina can cause vision to gradually deteriorate.

Vitamin E deficiency can also affect the immune system, lowering its function, which can open you up to more frequent infections, longer healing time, and the accumulation of dead and damaged cells in your system. This is especially problematic for those with already weakened immune systems, such as those with adrenal fatigue, older adults, and those on immunosuppressant medications.

Children are at higher risk for developing complications from vitamin E deficiency than adults, because they can develop a health condition that interferes with its absorption later in life. Newborns with lower birth weight and those born prematurely are also at risk of vitamin E deficiency, and in some cases, this can lead to hemolytic anemia.

Smoking can increase the risk of developing a deficiency as it uses up vitamin E to fight off higher levels of free radicals. Those on very low-fat diets may also be more at risk. Though severe deficiency is rare, mild deficiency is very common and does not seem to carry serious risks for most adults.

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