Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that has anti-oxidant properties- it helps protect fatty cell membranes from becoming oxidized from free radicals. Vitamin E has been dubbed the 'vitamin in search of a deficiency disease'. Although deficiency symptoms are rare, recent research has shown that higher intake of vitamin E is associated with protection against diseases associated with ageing- ie cancer and heart disease. Vitamin E supplementation has been suggested as a stimulant for the immune system(1).
Vitamin E is also commonly used as a supplement to improve dry skin. Although there is no definite basis for its use in skin care, anecdotal reports do indicate it may be of benefit. Vitamin E is a constituent of many beauty creams that are applied to the face.
Vitamin E is measured as mg or international units (1 mg = 1.49 i.u).
Deficiency of vitamin E in the diet has no defined disease but chronic deficiency has been implicated as a contributor to cancer and heart disease.
The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E is 10mg per day but the upper safe level for daily supplementation = 800mg (1200i.u.). Together with Vitamins C and A they are known as the'anti-oxidant group'. The combination is also important for prevention of respiratory ailments and asthma.
Vitamin E supplements may help with a range of conditions:
- Heart conditions (2)
- Circulatory disorders(3)
- Fibrocystic breast disease (4)
- Blood platelet aggregation (e.g. in susceptible women on the contraceptive pill) (5)
- Vitamin E may also be used as a nutritional therapy in the following conditions:
- Pre-menstrual syndrome (6) (especially with Evening Primrose Oil)
- Post-operative Wound healing (7)
- Poor circulation (3), Varicose veins, etc.
- Alzheimers disease (8)
Sources of Vitamin E
The main sources of vitamin E in the diet are wheat-germ oil, wheatgerm, almonds and oil seeds.
Foods and vitamin E content:
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1. "Human Nutrition
and Dietetics", J S Garrow & W P T James, Churchill Livingstone,
2. Kwiterovich PO Jr. The effect of dietary fat, Antioxidants, and pro-oxidants on blood lipids, lipoproteins, and Atherosclerosis. J Am Diet Assoc, 97;7 suppl:S31-41, 1997.
3. "Martindale The Extra Pharmacopoeia", J Reynolds, The Pharmaceutical Press, 29th Ed, 1989.
4. London RS et al. Endocrine parameters and alpha-tocopherol therapy of patients with mammary dysplasia. Caner Res, 41:3811-3813, 1981.
5. Renaud S et al. Influence of vitamin E administration on platelet functions in hormonal contraceptive users. Contraception, 36:347-358, 1987.
6. London RS et al. Efficacy of alpha-tocopherol in the treatment of the premenstrual syndrome. J Reprod Med, 32;6:400-404, 1987.
7. Int J Dermatol, 1995,34;7:506-509.
8. Sano et al. A controlled clinical trial of Selegiline, Alpha-tocopherol or both as treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. New England J Med, 336;17:1216-1222, 1997.