Vitamin E is an umbrella term that includes 8 fat-soluble types. The most important is alpha-tocopherol, which is the most common type of vitamin E. It is considered a vitamin and an antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it has a significant role in protecting the body from harmful molecules that can cause premature ageing signs and increase the incidence of cancer. Vitamin E is found in fat-rich food such as nuts and seeds, and dark leafy vegetables. It is a fascinating vitamin for growing long and healthy skin.
Why vitamin E, and what benefits does it have?
Supports hair growth
Vitamin E helps repair and build tissues as part of its antioxidant properties. It stimulates the growth and blood circulation in the scalp and promotes restoration of damaged hair follicles which results in healthy hair and reduces the rate of split ends, dandruff and hair loss.
Boosts immune system
Vitamin E acts as an anti-inflammatory, which improves cases of allergy, flu and common cold. It reduces reproduction of viruses and bacteria by inhibiting their gene production and maturation, which contributes to preventing infection in various body systems such as the urinary, digestive and respiratory system.
Strengths cardiovascular system
Researches show vitamin E reduces the risk of myocardial infarction, cardiovascular diseases and mortality.
Improves brain function
Vitamin E enhances memory and cognitive functions, mainly in older people. Researches show that people who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s have low vitamin E levels in cerebrospinal fluid, which supports a healthy brain and spinal cord functions. Treating vitamin E deficiency in these patients is associated with a reduction in Alzheimer progression and symptoms along with improving memory and cognitive functions.
Reduces cancer occurrence
Combining vitamin E and selenium together is considered anticarcinogenic because vitamin E has antioxidant possesses, which protect and provide a healthy environment for the cells to grow, mature and proliferate, and regulate both cell differentiation and programmed cell death (apoptosis).
Supports bone health
Owing to the antioxidant properties of vitamin E, it helps with reducing bone degeneration and calcium mobilisation from the bone. Studies show that elevating the levels of vitamin E in patients with osteoporosis decreases the incidence and the symptoms of osteoporosis.
Acts as antioxidant
Antioxidants are substances that reduce and remove harmful molecules from cells to protect them from ageing and degeneration. Vitamin E is an excellent source for antioxidants; it delays the ageing processes, reducing the incidence of premature ageing, the appearance of wrinkles and at the same time protects against cancers because it supports cell growth and tissue differentiation.
Regulation of gene expression is a part of the benefits of vitamin E. When vitamin E levels drop, mutations of genes may happen, giving rise to conditions like ataxia. Ataxia is a neurological disease characterized by abnormal and unpredictable body movements. Patients with ataxia caused by vitamin E deficiency show drastic improvement in the symptoms after treating their vitamin E deficiency.
Where can I get vitamin E from?
- Vitamin E has many sources, including food, supplements and oils.
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin which can be found in fat-rich food such as sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, olive oil, salmon, shrimp, hazelnuts and coconut oil.
- Other sources of vitamin E include spinach, broccoli, jalapeno peppers, kiwis, tortilla chips, tofu, butternut squash, trout, kale, swiss chard, parsley, turnip greens and mustard greens.
- Vitamin E oil can be easily made at home by combining vitamin E capsules with castor oil or coconut oil. This oil has many benefits, such as stimulates hair growth, reduces split ends and hair loss, improves blood circulation, prevents dandruff, and acts as an antioxidant to give a healthy scalp and strong hair.
- Wheat germ is a rich source of vitamin E, and its oil can be used as topical vitamin E.
Here are some of the highest vitamin E sources and the amount of vitamin E in 100 grams of each source:
- Sunflower seeds: 26.1 mg, 174% of daily vitamin E intake
- almonds: 25.6 mg, 171% of daily vitamin E intake
- olive oil: 14.4 mg, 96% of daily vitamin E intake
- trout: 2.8 mg, 19% of daily vitamin E intake
- shrimp: 2.2 mg, 15% of daily vitamin E intake
- avocado: 2.1 mg, 14% of daily vitamin E intake
- spinach: 2.1 mg, 14% of daily vitamin E intake
- kiwifruit: 1.5 mg, 10% of daily vitamin E intake
- Broccoli: 1.5 mg, 10% of daily vitamin E intake
- butternut squash: 1.3 mg, 9% of daily vitamin E intake
How do our bodies absorb vitamin E?
The most active form of vitamin E that is found in plenty of food sources is alpha-tocopherol
Here are some factors that may enhance or reduce vitamin E absorption:
- Fat: Increase healthy fats intake like avocados, olive oil, butter, nuts and seeds with vitamin E-rich food to increase vitamin E absorption because it is a fat-soluble vitamin.
- Tea: It should be avoided as it binds to vitamin E in the intestine, which decreases its absorption.
- Alcohol: Alcohol damages digestive system lining, which causes multivitamin malabsorption including vitamin E.
How much vitamin E do I need daily?
Daily recommendations of vitamin E differ according to age, sex, daily activity, the person’s status of health, metabolic and medical conditions. But, the recommended vitamin E amount according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is:
- From birth to 6 months: 4 mg
- Infants from 7 to 12 months: 5 mg
- Children from 1 to 3 years: 6 mg
- Children from 4 to 8 years: 7 mg
- Children from 9 to 13 years: 11 mg
- adults from 14 years and older: 15 mg
- pregnancy women from 14 years and older: 15 mg
- Breastfeeding women from 14 years and older: 19 mg
People at risk of vitamin E deficiency may need more than the daily vitamin E recommendation.
Who is at risk and what are the causes of Vitamin E deficiency?
Low vitamin E intake
Low Vitamin E intake may cause deficiency. People that undergo low-fat diet may result with vitamin E deficiency because fat improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin E.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding women are at risk because the nutritional demand of the infant increases vitamin E requirements and may cause vitamin E deficiency when this is not prevented with supplements or by increasing vitamin E intake in food.
Malabsorption and digestive system diseases
Patient with an intestinal disease that decreases vitamin E absorption such as celiac, cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s diseases should consider vitamin E supplements and these conditions must be treated to avoid its deficiency.
In chronic alcohol consumption, there is an increase in vitamin E execration in the urine. The downside of regular alcohol intake is causing damage in the digestive system epithelium, leading to malabsorption of many nutrients, including vitamin E.
Westernized diet based on fast and junk food is lacking vitamin E if not combined with a daily intake of fruit and vegetables. Researches show that only 21% of teenagers meet their daily vitamin E requirements.
Medications that treat high blood cholesterol usually stimulate fat excretion in the stool causing fatty diarrhoea. Excessive fat loss leads to malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E.
Gall bladder diseases
Diseases that decrease bile secretion may lead to a deficit in vitamin E absorption because bile binds to vitamin E helps with fat absorption and without fat, vitamin E will not absorb as it is a fat-soluble vitamin.
When do you consider vitamin E deficiency?
Healthy vitamin E levels range between 5.5 – 17 milligrams per litre (mg/l). If the test is lower than 4 mg/l, it means vitamin E deficiency. vitamin E blood test usually measures vitamin E in the alpha-tocopherol form because it has the most considerable quantity in blood.
Vitamin E deficiency symptoms
All of vitamin E symptoms cause by reduction of antioxidant, which increases the free radicals, a harmful substance that damages the cells or even causes their death.
Reduction of antioxidants decreases skin cells growth and causes cells damage, giving rise to dry and flaky skin, early wrinkles appearance, speed up aging process and promote skin pigmentation. The hair is made up of skin cells, and vitamin E deficiency that will cause hair loss, dandruff and split ends.
When free radicals increase, it damages muscle cells, causing muscle weakness and leg cramps.
This happens as a part of nervous system affection by free radicals; they reduce nerve signal transition, resulting in peripheral neuropathy, uncoordinated movement and muscle weakness, the symptoms of a condition called ataxia.
Lower vitamin E levels increase the incidence of blood clotting, and this may cause myocardial infarction and increase cardiovascular mortality as a result of increasing free radicals in the body.
Low levels of antioxidant, specifically in females, reduces bone mass and accelerates early menopause symptoms; both effects will have a negative impact on the bone and ultimately cause osteoporosis.
Vitamin E is responsible for cell growth and maturation. Its deficiency may reduce cell division, growth, and maturation leading to infertility. Antioxidant properties in vitamin E protect against gene mutation in male sperms and female eggs. A deficiency would increase the rate of mutations leading to frequent miscarriage and infertility.
Increasing free radicals will affect the light receptors in the retina of the eye. Chronic, prolonged, and untreated vitamin E deficiency may cause blindness in the long run.
Vitamin E acts as antioxidants responsible for a healthy and strong immune system to fight against bacteria and viruses. So, if you are getting sick frequently, you may need to check your vitamin E level in the blood.
Excessive fatigue and tiredness
Vitamin E deficiency affects muscle contraction and transmission of nerve impulses leading to tiredness and chronic fatigue.
How to maintain vitamin E at a healthy level and prevent vitamin E deficiency?
- Eat fat-rich food such as sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, olive oil, salmon, shrimp, hazelnuts and coconut oil as fat-rich food increase absorption of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin E.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables that contain high levels of vitamin E like spinach, broccoli, jalapeno peppers, kiwis, tortilla chips, tofu, butternut squash, trout, kale, swiss chard, parsley, turnip greens, and mustard greens.
- Treat medical conditions that affect vitamin E absorption.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Avoid drinking coffee and tea 2 hours before meals and after.
- Avoid smoking and sitting with smokers as smoking decreases vitamin E levels.
- Smokers and passive smokers should increase their daily vitamin E intake.
- For best vitamin E oil results, it should be applied at night for whole hair length specially the cuticles. Also, you can add vitamin E oil to a cream or lotion to increase its antioxidants effect.
How can you treat a vitamin E deficiency?
You should elevate vitamin E levels in the blood by working on the same points as in the prevention of vitamin E deficiency. You can ask your doctor, as he may recommend vitamin E supplements to increase its levels. Vitamin E supplements are available over the counter, and for most adults, the recommended daily allowance is 15 mg for adults.
Always ask your doctor before taking supplements, even if it is available over the counter.
It is best to treat vitamin E deficiency with natural sources, as supplements have a high ability for toxicity.