Why Is Vitamin E Important to Your Health?

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on
Various nuts are great sources of vitamin E, a key antioxidant that helps protect the cells that make up the human body.

Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a significant role in human health.[1] As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps maintain healthy cells and, subsequently, a healthy body. Vitamin E can also help with poor eyesight[2], gout[3], and arthritis.[4] Today, we’ll look at key roles vitamin E plays within the body.

What Dr. Haas Says About Vitamin E

When it comes to vitamins, Dr. Elson M. Haas wrote the book, literally. That book is Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Here’s what he has to say about vitamin E.[5]

“Vitamin E, as its various tocopherol forms, is found in both plant and animal foods. In general, the animal sources of E are poor, found in butter, egg yolk, milk fat, and liver. The best sources of vitamin E are the vegetable and seed or nut oils.”
“The oil component of all grains, seeds, and nuts contain tocopherol. The protective covering of the grains contains E; this is lost in the milling or refinement of grains. To preserve the vitamin E, extraction from nuts and seeds must be done naturally, as by cold pressing, rather than by heat or chemical extraction, used in food processing.”
“Because of these forms of processing, the average American diet has lost many of its natural sources of tocopherols. Intake is commonly very low. Cold-pressed vegetable oils are the best source of vitamin E. These are most healthy in their raw form in dressings and sauces rather than in cooking. Most are polyunsaturated oils, which are adversely affected by heating.”

The specific levels of vitamin E in foods relates to the content of linoleic and linolenic acids[6] — our most essential fatty acids.

Consuming Vitamin E Through Diet

Dr. Haas also explains this about the vitamin E content in certain foods:

“The content of alpha-tocopherol varies among different foods and oils. Safflower oil is one of the best sources — about 90 percent of the E being alpha. Corn oil has only about 10 percent alpha-tocopherol. Other foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin E are soybeans, margarine, uncooked green peas, spinach, asparagus, kale, cucumber, tomato, and celery.”

If possible, it’s always best to get your vitamins from plant-based foods instead of supplements[7], which can be made from synthetic ingredients. Here are some of the best food sources of vitamin E.[8]

The Best Food Sources of Vitamin E
Food Milligrams (mg)per serving % of Recommended Daily Value
Wheat germ oil, 1 tablespoon 20.3 100
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 7.4 37
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 6.8 34
Sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon 5.6 28
Safflower oil, 1 tablespoon 4.6 25
Hazelnuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 4.3 22
Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons 2.9 15
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 2.2 11
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 1.9 10
Broccoli, chopped, boiled, ½ cup 1.2 6
Kiwifruit, 1 medium 1.1 6
Mango, sliced, ½ cup 0.7 4
Tomato, raw, 1 medium 0.7 4
Spinach, raw, 1 cup 0.6 3

Additional Health Benefits of Vitamin E

When it comes to health benefits, vitamin E is probably best known for its antioxidant properties.[9] Antioxidants counteract free radicals[10] and free radicals cause oxidative stress.[11] Oxidative stress can cause a host of serious health problems, including neurodegenerative disease.[12] Antioxidants can help prevent and repair cell damage. Dr. Haas explains:

“Free radical formation comes from a variety of chemical reactions in the body and is the basis of many diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, senility, and probably even cancer. Without vitamin E, cell membranes, and DNA are less protected from free radical damage.”
“Vitamin E as an antioxidant helps to stabilize cell membranes and protect the tissues of the skin, eyes, liver, breast, and testes. It protects the lungs from oxidative damage from environmental substances. Free radical formation and oxidation are tied to cancer development… More definitive research is needed.”
“It helps heart and muscle cell respiration by improving function with less oxygen. Vitamin E may improve stamina and endurance and reduce cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E reduces platelet aggregation and platelet adhesiveness to collagen, even more than aspirin.”

Supplementing to Consume Antioxidants

Following a diet heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of water, and avoiding processed food and refined sugar will usually ensure you receive adequate antioxidants. For additional antioxidant support, I recommend plant-based supplements. Antioxidants are only one of the benefits that vitamin E has to offer. Let’s check out a few more ways this vitamin can support your health.

Other Uses for Vitamin E

Dr. Haas explains other uses for vitamin E:

“Its antioxidant effect reduces thrombin formation and helps decrease blood clotting. It also appears to minimize platelet (blood-clotting component) aggregation and stickiness. This either generates or perpetuates the atherosclerotic process.”
“Vitamin A and E together can help decrease cholesterol and general fat accumulation. To assist in healing and minimize clotting, tocopherol is a useful nutrient before and after surgery, limited to dosages of 200-300 IUs per day. Higher amounts may actually suppress the healing process.”

Vitamin E also boasts topical benefits in skin care[13] and there are actually several vitamin E-based skin care product lines. Many are moisturizers and nourishing creams that help repair skin lesions, ulcers, and burns. Vitamin E can help heal or diminish scars caused by injury or surgery. And, according to Dr. Haas, that’s not all:

“Vitamin E may be very helpful to women. Research shows relief from menstrual pains, as well as general relief from various menstrual disorders. Many problems of menopause, such as headaches, hot flashes, or vaginal itching due to dryness, may be reduced with the use of supplemental vitamin E.”

It also appears that vitamin E could help with shingles[14], eye problems[15], menstrual migraines[16], fatty liver disease[17], muscular dystrophy[18], leg cramps, restless leg syndrome[19], and circulatory problems caused by diabetes.[20] Vitamin E is not a cure-all miracle tonic, but it does play a significant role in maintaining good health.

How Much Vitamin E Do I Need?

It seems the average American diet could use a bit more vitamin E. Here’s what Dr. Haas has to say about how much vitamin E we should be consuming:

“The amount of vitamin E required varies with body size and amount of polyunsaturated fats in the diet. Vitamin E is needed to protect these fats from oxidation. More is needed when any refined oils, fried foods, or rancid oils are consumed. Supplemental estrogen or estrogen imbalance in women increases the need for vitamin E, as does air pollution.”
“Vitamin E should not be taken with iron, especially inorganic iron, such as ferrous sulfate or the iron added to food products. Selenium, another important antioxidant, however, may increase the potency of vitamin E.”
“Even though the RDA for vitamin E is low, many people do not consume enough in their diet alone.”
“Approximately 400-600 IUs is used preventively. For therapeutic effects, an amount between 800-1600 IUs daily is suggested. With therapeutic uses of vitamin E, it is best to start with a low level and gradually increase it. Levels over 1,600 IUs per day are not recommended unless there is close medical supervision.”

Consult this chart for day-to-day, healthy vitamin E levels.[8]

Recommended Dietary Allowances of Vitamin E
Age Males Females Pregnancy Lactation
0–6 months 4 mg (6 IU) 4 mg(6 IU)
7–12 months 5 mg (7.5 IU) 5 mg (7.5 IU)
1–3 years 6 mg (9 IU) 6 mg (9 IU)
4–8 years 7 mg (10.4 IU) 7 mg (10.4 IU)
9–13 years 11 mg (16.4 IU) 11 mg (16.4 IU)
14+ years 15 mg (22.4 IU) 15 mg (22.4 IU) 15 mg (22.4 IU) 19 mg (28.4 IU)
IU = International Units

If you have high blood pressure, you may want to avoid large servings of vitamin E as it can raise blood pressure. However, 400 IUs daily is typically not excessive. If you have high blood pressure and plan to start vitamin E supplementation, monitor your body and blood pressure. As always, consult your healthcare practitioner before starting any supplementation program.

References

  1. National Institute of Health. Vitamin E: Health Sheet for Health Professionals. Last updated May 9, 2016.
  2. Larsen PD, Mock DM, O’Connor PS. Vitamin E deficiency associated with vision loss and bulbar weakness. Ann Neurol. 1985 Dec;18(6):725-7
  3. Hsu, Dur-Zong et al. Therapeutic Effects of Sesame Oil on Monosodium Urate Crystal-Induced Acute Inflammatory Response in Rats. SpringerPlus 2 (2013): 659. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016.
  4. Choi EJ1, Bae SC, Yu R, Youn J, Sung MK. Dietary vitamin E and quercetin modulate inflammatory responses of collagen-induced arthritis in mice. J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):770-5. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2008.1246.
  5. Haas, Elson M., and Buck Levin. “Chapter 5 : Vitamins: Vitamin E.” Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006. N. pag. Print.
  6. Applegate TJ, Sell JL. Effect of dietary linoleic to linolenic acid ratio and vitamin E supplementation on vitamin E status of poults. Poult Sci. 1996 Jul;75(7):881-90.
  7. McDougall, Craig, and John McDougall. Plant-Based Diets Are Not Nutritionally Deficient. The Permanente Journal 17.4 (2013): 93. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016.
  8. “Vitamin E Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 09 May 2016. Web. 27 May 2016.
  9. National Institute of Health. Vitamin E: Health Sheet for Consumers. Last updated May 9, 2016.
  10. Lobo, V. et al. Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Functional Foods: Impact on Human Health. Pharmacognosy Reviews 4.8 (2010): 118–126. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016.
  11. Jakus V. The role of free radicals, oxidative stress and antioxidant systems in diabetic vascular disease. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2000;101(10):541-51.
  12. Uttara, Bayani et al. Oxidative Stress and Neurodegenerative Diseases: A Review of Upstream and Downstream Antioxidant Therapeutic Options. Current Neuropharmacology 7.1 (2009): 65–74. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016.
  13. Thiele JJ, Hsieh SN, Ekanayake-Mudiyanselage S. Vitamin E: critical review of its current use in cosmetic and clinical dermatology. Dermatol Surg. 2005 Jul;31(7 Pt 2):805-13; discussion 813.
  14. Nicholas, Jacqueline Ann et al. Design of Oral Agents for the Management of Multiple Sclerosis: Benefit and Risk Assessment for Dimethyl Fumarate. Drug Design, Development and Therapy 8 (2014): 897–908. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016.
  15. Rizvi, Saliha et al. The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal 14.2 (2014): e157–e165. Print.
  16. Ziaei S, Kazemnejad A, Sedighi A. The effect of vitamin E on the treatment of menstrual migraine. Med Sci Monit. 2009 Jan;15(1):CR16-9.
  17. SHIASI ARANI, Kobra et al. Effect of Vitamin E and Metformin on Fatty Liver Disease in Obese Children- Randomized Clinical Trial. Iranian Journal of Public Health 43.10 (2014): 1417–1423. Print.
  18. Berneske, G. M. et al. Clinical Trial of High Dosage Vitamin E in Human Muscular Dystrophy. Canadian Medical Association Journal 82.8 (1960): 418–421.
  19. Ayres, Samuel, and Richard Mihan. Leg Cramps (Systremma) and ‘Restless Legs’ Syndrome — Response to Vitamin E (Tocopherol). California Medicine 111.2 (1969): 87–91.
  20. Baburao Jain, Anand, and Vaishali Anand Jain. Vitamin E, Its Beneficial Role in Diabetes Mellitus (DM) and Its Complications. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: JCDR 6.10 (2012): 1624–1628. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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