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E (Vitamin E)
Vitamin E occurs as eight compounds in nature: alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherol and tocotrienols. On supplement labels vitamin E refers to "d-alpha tocopherol/tocotrienol." equivalent. The synthetic form of vitamin E is "dl-alpha tocopherol" and is a less active form. Vitamin E is measured in mg and i.u. where:
Commercial food processing reduces the vitamin E content of foods as does freezing and deep-frying. Solvent extraction of vegetable oils also destroys vitamin E.
N.B. Acetate and succinate are more stable forms of vitamin E often used in supplement manufacture.
Vitamin E is a very important antioxidant. Its properties are vital in the membranes of tissues which have a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), such as in the brain, nervous system and lungs.
Vitamin E helps protect PUFAs and other fatty substances such as cholesterol from oxidation caused by free radicals, the highly reactive by-products of metabolism which also arise from environmental sources.
As an antioxidant nutrient, vitamin E helps to prevent conversion of nitrites in smoked, pickled and cured foods to nitrosamines (possible carcinogens) in the stomach. As an antioxidant, vitamin E works closely with Vitamin C.
Vitamin E has a very powerful antioxidant effect in the body - protecting the lipids in cell walls particularly. Lipids are particularly susceptible to oxidation by free radicals (highly reactive by-products of metabolism also arising from environmental sources).
In its capacity as an antioxidant, vitamin E can act to reduce the oxygen requirement of muscles and thereby increase exercise capacity. It also helps healing and is protective against Atherosclerosis and thrombosis.
Vitamin E also has an important neurological role and prevents degeneration of the nerves and muscles.
Deficiency of vitamin E does not lead to any specific disease in the short term, but chronic insufficiency of vitamin E is thought to be a contributory factor in cancer and heart disease.
In children, fat malabsorption can lead to a deficiency of vitamin E characterised by abnormal red blood cell development.
Upper safe level for daily supplementation = 800mg (1200i.u.)
Recommended Daily Allowance = 10mg
Vitamin E supplements are advised in individuals who have fat malabsorption problems.
To date, these are some of the conditions that vitamin E supplements may help prevent:
Vitamin E may also be used as a nutritional therapy in the following conditions:
Coronary Heart Disease:
Levels over about 800mg vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) have occasionally been associated with such symptoms as Fatigue, nausea, mild gastrointestinal problems, palpitations and transient blood pressure increase. Such symptoms are reversible.
Interactions have been reported between vitamin E and a range of drugs, and anyone taking medication should consult their general practitioner before using vitamin E supplements.
Diabetes and Hypothyroidism:
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1. "Human Nutrition and Dietetics", J S Garrow & W P T James, Churchill Livingstone, 1996.