What we need to know about Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a "multitasking" vitamin type, but as a fat-soluble vitamin we must take it after meals to boost its effect.
How much Vitamin E do we need?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that can’t be produced by our body but we can store it and use it as it needed. It’s a powerful antioxidant that occurs naturally in many foods, is added to processed food and can be taken as a dietary supplement. Vitamin E is actually a group of eight compounds, but alpha-tocopherol is the only form that seems to meet human needs. As it’s a fat-soluble Vitamin, it needs fat for absorption; of course a healthy form of fat. The liver is responsible for storing and using Vitamin E after it’s absorbed from the small intestine.
The recommended daily amount of Vitamin E increases with the age of the person. Babies (from birth to 6 months) need a moderate amount of Vitamin E, 4 mg daily. A child needs 11-15 mg, depending on the age, and an adult needs a daily 15 mcg.
Vitamin E deficiency is not a common diagnosis in healthy people. Usually those have a deficiency already have some digestive problem, and can’t properly absorb or digest fat (such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis or other rare genetic diseases with abnormalities in the alpha-tocopherol transfer protein.) Symptoms are chronic diarrhea, greasy stools, or the inability to secrete bile. There are groups that have a higher risk of not getting enough Vitamin E, especially smokers, passive smokers, or people who live in a strongly polluted or air-polluted environment.
What foods to eat?
Vitamin E is found naturally in vegetable oils, avocado, spinach, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, nuts and whole grains. Kiwi, mango and tomato contain it too.
What helps to absorb Vitamin E?
If taking Vitamin E as a supplement, always take it with a meal that contains fat. Try to buy a supplement that contains all the eight forms of Vitamin E since they work together best.
Aging cause decreased absorption, since the level of enzyme lipase (the fat digesting enzyme) in the stomach starts to be lower. Taking Vitamin E as a supplement increases the chances of gaining as much as the body can during digestion.
There are a few water-soluble sources of Vitamin E, which help absorption. They are usually for those with diseases of malabsorption that affect the liver, pancreas, or intestines, but they’re suitable for children or people who can stand the softgel capsules.
Try to take Vitamins A and E together. They are absorbed well together, but avoid taking minerals together with Vitamin E, as they block or even destroy it, like inorganic Iron.
If the supplement is not a gel capsule, it can be broken into smaller amounts to take it in small doses during the day from meal to meal.
What is Vitamin E for in the body?
Our body needs Vitamin B9 to prevent the damage of free radicals in the cells, and in that way lowers the risk of cancer. Since free radicals make the cells weak and break them down, the anti-aging power of Vitamin E slows down this process. (It’s interesting that it has the same effect in the foods that contain it, it slows down oxidization and turning rancid.) Cells use it to interact with each other.
It helps prevent heart diseases, heart attack, relieves symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and stores Vitamins A, K, Iron and Selenium. It may be useful against some diabetes-related damage, particularly to the eyes.
Vitamin E boosts the immune system to help fight off bacteria and viruses. It helps maintain the good condition of blood vessels, and keeps blood clotting within them, preventing leg pain due to blocked arteries.
Vitamin E can be useful for women fighting off premenstrual syndrome, painful periods, menopausal syndrome’s hot flashes, breast cancer or breast cysts. It’s extremely helpful for the skin either from taking it as a supplement or directly applying it to the skin.
Is too much Vitamin E dangerous?
There is no evidence that taking too much Vitamin E could be harmful, if consumed from food sources. On the other hand it’s not reccomended to take high doses as a supplement for a long time because it may increase the risk of bleeding, that can lead to serious bleeding in the case of an injury and serious bleeding in the brain that may cause brain damage.
Does pregnancy increase the need for Vitamin E?
Yes, but only in a slightly higher dose than the normal. It can be used for pregnancy indicated high blood pressure, and helps prevent or reduce oxygen damage to the retina of eye for premature babies.
About Vitamin E supplements
A well-balanced diet provides the daily requirement of Vitamin E, so there’s no need to take it as a supplement, except in pregnancy, lactation or digestive diseases. Taking it alongside a diet free from fats doesn’t work since if there’s no fat consumed, it cannot be absorbed well. If taking a supplement for any reason, it must be considered that multivitamin complexes usually contain 30 IU-s of Vitamin E, while only E-containing supplements contain a much higher dose, around 100 IU-s, that is not needed daily. One more thing to check on the labels is the form of Vitamin E. Each of the eight compounds in the group has a different potency or level of activity in the body, but alpha-tocopherol is the best for the body. The synthetic form of it is called dl-alpha-tocopherol.
Best Vitamin E based dishes:
- mango lassi
- quiche lorraine
- almond butter cookies