What is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a type of fat-soluble vitamin, it is otherwise known as “tocopherols”. Vitamin E exists in multiple forms and based on research, alpha-tocopherol, is the only form that is beneficial to humans.
One of the most important effects of Vitamin E is the antioxidant effect that it provides. In simplistic terms, it protects and slows down the process of damaging effects on our body’s cells. Therefore, as an important type of antioxidant, it is required for the proper functioning of multiple organs within our body.
What are the benefits of consuming Vitamin E?
As mentioned above, Vitamin E is a form of fat soluble vitamin that provides health benefits by preventing and treating certain diseases. The proposed mechanism on how it aids with improving health is through its antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet aggregation properties, and as an immune system enhancer.
Vitamin E has been shown to have benefits in preventing coronary heart diseases, cancer (anti-oxidant properties), eye disorders (e.g. cataracts and age-related macular degeneration), and cognitive/neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia).
Some studies have also shown benefit from applying Vitamin E to their skin to prevent drying and aging effects that may be caused by chemotherapy treatment. It is rather well known to women that Vitamin E has effects on slowing the aging process and serves as a moisturizer as well, this is why Vitamin E can sometimes be found in cosmetic products as well.
With regards to Vitamin E and weight management, Vitamin E is sometimes used to increase energy, and reduce muscle loss/damage after heavy exercise routines, hence improving muscle strength.
How much Vitamin E do I need on a daily basis?
The daily recommended amount based on recommendations by the US FDA is approximately 30 IU (equivalent to approximately 20mg of alpha tocopherol) for children >4 years old and adults. Some individuals may require a higher amount of Vitamin E intake, for example, pregnant women, and lactating women may require a larger dose of Vitamin E. In addition, the doses required to treat certain diseases such as age-related macular degeneration will be significantly different compared to what a healthy normal individual’s requirement is on a daily basis. Whether too much of Vitamin E can cause any harm? Interestingly, there are studies that indicate an increased risk of death in people taking greater than 400 IU/day.
What food sources provide me with Vitamin E?
Quite a few types of food contain a good source of Vitamin E, these includes green leafy vegatables, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils (e.g. wheatgerm oil, sunflower oil etc.), whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products. Most of us will be able to source for food that is rich in Vitamin E, if on a daily basis, you consume food such as soy, canola, corn, or even your fortified breakfast cereal, these are food that contains a good amount of Vitamin E.
Vitamin E is also available as supplements, typically vitamin E content within supplements ranges from 25IU up to 1000IU. Be wary of the brand and amount of Vitamin E intake that you require. Take note that 30IU is the US FDA recommended daily intake. There are certain population (e.g. Pregnant or lactating women, those with eye-disorders such as macular degeneration and cataracts etc.) that may benefit more from taking additional amounts of Vitamin E and this should be discussed with your health care provider.
Any other items to be aware of with regards to Vitamin E?
As with most supplements, there are well documented interactions between Vitamin E and prescription medicines, here are a few to pay close attention to:
- Vitamin E has anti-platelet properties, which prevents blood from clotting. Therefore, those that are taking any form of anti-coagulants (e.g. warfarin or heparin) OR any form of anti-platelets (e.g. aspirin, clopidogrel, ticagrelor, prasugrel) should be cautious as taking these together may increase the risk of bleeding. When in doubt, alert your medical practitioner about your intake of Vitamin E
- Vitamin E may interfere with absorption of certain medications such as tricyclic antidepressants (e.g. Nortriptyline); beta-blockers to reduce blood pressure (e.g. atenolol, propranolol); phenothiazines as an antipsychotic (e.g. chlorpromazine
- Vitamin E and Cholesterol medications: Absorption of certain cholesterol medications such as drugs within the class known as bile-acid sequestrants (e.g. colestipol) and fibric acid derivatives (e.g. Gemfibrozil). On the other hand, the most well known lipid lowering medication, statins, may reduce the antioxidant effects of Vitamin E. However, mixed reviews also indicate blood vessel protective effects when both are taken together.
Are there side effects to consuming too much Vitamin E?
Because of the anti-platelet effect of Vitamin E, there may be a risk of bleeding if you are also consuming any form of ‘blood-thinners’. Do consult your healthcare provider if you begin experiencing headaches, dizziness, vision changes, rashes, gastrointestinal effects such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, and generalized weakness etc.
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