The health benefits of vitamin E relate to its powerful antioxidant activity where it not only interacts with a host of other antioxidants, but can also be recycled and regenerated back into its antioxidant form. Antioxidants help to protect your body from free radical damage and oxidative stress.
Vitamin E is your most powerful fat-soluble vitamin which relies heavily on healthy fat digestion for absorption. The majority of vitamin E is stored in your fat cells, with smaller amounts found in the heart, muscles, reproductive organs, and the adrenal and pituitary glands. D-alpha-Tocopherol is the most abundant and biologically active form of vitamin E with the highest bioavailability (dl-alpha-Tocopherol is a synthetic version of vitamin E).
Vitamin E is a key player in the body’s antioxidant network where it prevents free radical damage and oxidation from occurring, and once it has been used to stabilise and neutralise free radicals, it can be recycled repeatedly with the help of other antioxidants, such as coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, glutathione and alpha Lipoic acid.
Free radicals and oxidation
Free radicals are unstable molecules that gain stability by stealing from other molecules, such as proteins, DNA and cell membranes. They are formed by a biochemical reaction known as ‘oxidation’ – think of an apple slice that quickly turns brown – this is oxidation in action. During oxidation, important components of cells may become damaged, which then lose their ability to function normally. Free radicals can be generated as natural by-products by the body, including as a result of ordinary metabolic processes and immune system responses, or by the foods and water you consume, alcohol, some medications, pesticides and the air you breathe. Antioxidants can help to reduce the formation of free radicals or they can donate a molecule to the free radical, helping to stabilise or neutralise it, so there is no need to steal from other important molecules.
Food sources of vitamin E
Good food sources of vitamin E include animal and plant-based foods such as cold pressed vegetable oils, particularly wheatgerm oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. Spinach, kale, sweet potato, yams, egg yolk, liver, soya beans, asparagus and dairy products also contain some vitamin E. Processing and cooking foods can easily destroy vitamin E, with up to 55% lost through cooking.
Do I need extra vitamin E?
Your requirements for vitamin E are increased by exposure to pollution, pesticides, additives and radiation, and if you eat a highly processed or cooked diet. Some medications and fat malabsorption problems may reduce your absorption of vitamin E, so supplementing with vitamin E may assist in the management of a dietary vitamin E deficiency and support the maintenance of general wellbeing. Therapeutic doses of vitamin E typically range up to 2000 I.U./day (international units). See Vitamin E 500 I.U. here.