10 Studies on How Vitamin E Saves Your Life from the Inside Out
Most people have heard of vitamin E, and you probably also know that it acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body, helping to ward off free radical damage. What you may not know, however, is just how far-reaching this vitamin’s effect on your health may be … and that there’s a good chance you are not getting enough — or the right kinds — from dietary sources alone.
Spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens and other leafy greens are excellent sources of dietary vitamin E … but the only way to get the whole spectrum of “E” benefits is through supplementation.
Vitamin E: 10 Ways This Miraculous “Unique” Vitamin Can Help You
1. Prevent Respiratory Infections
A study in elderly nursing home residents recently found that vitamin E supplementation may help prevent respiratory tract infections.
2. Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Patients with higher intakes of vitamin E had a 25 percent lower risk of developing dementia, compared with patients with the lowest vitamin E intakes, a new study found.
Interestingly, only higher intake of vitamin E, but not vitamin C, beta carotene, or flavonoids, was associated with lower dementia risk. As reported in Medscape Today:
“When beta-amyloid — a hallmark of pathologic Alzheimer disease — accumulates in the brain, an inflammatory response is likely evoked that produces nitric oxide radicals and downstream neurodegenerative effects,” report investigators led by Elizabeth Devore, ScD, from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “Vitamin E is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant that may help to inhibit the pathogenesis of dementia.”
3. Lower Your Risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Both smokers and non-smokers may lower their risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by regularly using vitamin E. Women aged 45 and older who took vitamin E supplements had a 10 percent lower risk of COPD, regardless of whether or not they smoked.
Anne Hermetet Agler, doctoral candidate with Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, told the Times of India:
“As lung disease develops, damage occurs to sensitive tissues through several proposed processes, including inflammation and damage from free radicals. Vitamin E may protect the lung against such damage.”
4. Lower Your Prostate Cancer Risks
A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that prostate cancer risks went down significantly with high levels of vitamin E. Specifically, men with the highest levels of alpha-tocopherol in their blood were 51 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer while those with the highest levels of gamma-tocopherol were 43 percent less likely to develop the disease.
5. Inhibit Breast Cancer Cells
A form of vitamin E called tocotrienols, and especially delta-tocotrienols, inhibit human breast cancer cells by causing apoptosis (cell death).
University of Texas, Austin researchers noted that delta-tocotrienol, found in palm oil, was the most potent inducer of cell death, causing apoptosis in breast cancer cells at a rate twice that of gamma-tocotrienol.
6. Build Stronger Bones
In an animal study, supplementation with gamma-tocotrienol vitamin E lead to better bone quality than olive oil or other forms of vitamin E. All forms of vitamin E lead to better quality bones than the olive oil, however.
Certain medications, including anticonvulsant drugs and cholesterol-lowering drugs, can significantly reduce your levels of vitamin E.
7. Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Research suggests that higher intakes of vitamin E lead to lower rates of heart disease. In fact, in one study of about 90,000 people, those who had the highest intakes of vitamin E, primarily from supplements, had heart disease rates that were 30-40 percent lower than other groups. Vitamin E has also been associated with decreased mortality from coronary heart disease.
8. Reduce Your Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
The risk of developing AMD, one of the most common causes of vision loss in the elderly, is about 20 percent lower in people with high dietary intakes of vitamin E, compared to those with low intakes. It’s also been shown that taking a combination of vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene and copper may slow the progression of the disease in people at the early stages.
9. Protect Your Brain After a Stroke
Tocotrienols appear to protect nerve cells, preventing them from dying, after a troke, according to research from Ohio State University. The tocotrienols work by stopping the function of an enzyme that releases fatty acids that kill neurons.
“Our research suggests that the different forms of natural vitamin E have distinct functions. The relatively poorly studied tocotrienol form of natural vitamin E targets specific pathways to protect against neural cell death and rescues the brain after stroke injury,” Chandan Sen, professor and vice chair for research in Ohio State’s Department of Surgery and senior author of the study, said in a press release.
10. Ward Off Colds
Research from Tufts University revealed that vitamin E supplementation may help ward off the common cold, as well as help prevent upper respiratory infection. Among nursing home residents that took a vitamin E supplement daily, the risk of acquiring a cold was 20 percent lower than those taking a placebo.
Why it’s Difficult to Get Enough Vitamin E from Diet Alone
Vitamin E is found naturally in nuts, vegetable and palm oils, wheat germ oil, and green leafy vegetables. If you don’t eat these foods regularly, you’ll be missing out on vitamin E’s health benefits. Vitamin E is also fat-soluble, which means you have to eat it with a fat in order for it to be absorbed (so if you eat a cup of spinach without any olive oil, butter, or other dietary fat at your meal, you’ll be missing out on the vitamin E).
Further, most vitamin E in the U.S. diet is in the form of gamma-tocopherol, which is found in vegetable oils like corn, canola and soybean. While gamma-tocopherol is beneficial, it is only ONE type of vitamin E.
There are actually EIGHT forms of vitamin E in all (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol), and research suggests that a mixture of tocopherols, as well as tocotrienols (which are difficult to get from dietary sources alone) are best to receive the maximum wide-reaching benefits.
You should know, too, that tocopherols have been shown to inhibit absorption of tocotrienols, which means they should be consumed separately for maximum results. Unfortunately, palm oil and rice bran oil contain high amounts of tocopherol, which may inhibit the absorption of their tocotrienols.
Ideally, take mixed “E” Tocopherols with your morning meal and “E” Tocotrienols with your evening meal to take advantage of the full range of benefits vitamin E has to offer.
Your body needs antioxidants to protect your cells from damaging free radicals. These free radicals can cause oxidation in your body that, similar to rust on a car, will degrade your cells and organs leading to disease and aging.
Not only do antioxidants help to prevent oxidation, but, according to the American Dietetic Association, they may also decrease your risk of infection, heart disease and cancer while boosting the function of your immune system.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 92, No. 1, 106-114
Archives of Neurology;67(7):819-25.
National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin E