Ever wonder why most skin care products have vitamin E near the end of the ingredient list? To keep the precious fats within from going rancid! This amazing antioxidant plays a critical role in protecting fats from free-radical damage by light, heat, oxygen, and more, including the fats in your oils, creams, and other hydrating fat-friendly products. In your body, vitamin E functions as an inner and outer armor, protecting all of your fatty cell membranes from damage, especially skin cells that you present to the world and that line your gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. E-very. Single. Cell. Benefits. 

Vitamin E plays other important roles too, especially concerning heart health and other metabolic disease risks. This heart-healthy superstar needs to be on your radar yesterday, and chances are you don’t get all of the essential forms. In fact, according to the USDA only 13.6% of Americans get enough vitamin E from their diet – that means 84% of us are deficent. Let’s bolster your inner armor and the best way to achieve adequate vitamin E status!

What is Vitamin E?  

Vitamin E was discovered in 1922 when Herbert McLean Evans and Katharine Scott Bishop realized that there was some component in vegetable oil that rats needed to reproduce. Though this reproductive boon is not as profound in humans, Evans and Bishop isolated what we have come to know as vitamin E from wheat germ, where it is still sourced from today. They named it “tocopherol,” meaning “to bring forth offspring.”[1]

While the alpha-tocopherol form is known as vitamin E, there is a spectrum of eight tocopherols and tocotrienols in the vitamin E family (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta of each). When taking vitamin E look for d-alpha-tocopherol, which is the naturally occurring form and avoid the, synthetic form, which start with dl (dl-alpha-tocopherol) as some research had indicated potential danger from the synthetic form of vitamin E. Additionally, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that levels of natural vitamin E (d-tocopherol) in the blood and in the organs were double that of synthetic vitamin E (dl-tocopherol) when compared, showing natural vitamin E is better retained and more biologically active than the synthetic form.

More research is needed to elucidate the specific roles and value of supplementing other forms, but what has come forth is promising enough that we formulate our Nutreince multivitamin to contain 100% of the RDI for vitamin E (22 IU) with the full spectrum of d-tocopherols and d-tocotrienols.

E-xciting Benefits

Vitamin E really is an unsung hero. Here are some of its functions:

  • Protection against Free Radicals. Free radical damage- damage caused by unstable molecules with unpaired electrons making other molecules unstable- occurs every moment of every day. Because oxygen can cause free radical damage, we call molecules like vitamin E that donate an electron to fight it “anti-oxidants.” Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps repair free radical damage to fats, with its biggest role being to protect your cell membranes.
  • Protection Against Blocked Blood Vessels. Vitamin E protects LDL particles (fat and cholesterol carriers from the liver out to the rest of the body) from oxidation. When fats in the membranes of these particles are damaged by free radicals, a process known as “lipid peroxidation,” they trigger an immune response. First, platelets aggregate, walling off the offended particle. Then, the rest of the emergency crews show up, creating a traffic jam in the artery. That traffic jam either resolves or the plaque can calcify over time. However, if vitamin E can repair the damage to LDL, it can decrease platelet aggregation and reduce your risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)![2]
  • Supports Cellular Communication. Adequate vitamin E is required for chemical information to be transferred from cell to cell. This is important for all tissues to function in your body, and may reduce cancer risk.
  • Supports Visual Health. Vitamin E has been shown to have a protective effect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Protects Skin. Vitamin E directly protects skin from the damaging ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, beyond its normal role protecting fatty skin cell membranes. Because skin is the most exposed layer of cells to a world of free radical damage from heat, air, light, and more, vitamin E has a lot of work to do just keeping cell membranes functioning. Moreover, vitamin E can be absorbed through skin, so topical treatments have value. But focus on food first!
  • Fertility Boost. While not as profound of an effect as that seen in rats when vitamin E was discovered, human studies do indicate a role for vitamin E in supporting fertility. Other research indicates that vitamin E rich foods, such avocados, can help boost progesterone levels.
  • E-xercise Enabler. By reducing the free radical damage incurred to blood and tissue during exercise, vitamin E helps reduce muscular injuries and support health during heavy exercise.

Vitamin E Deficiency Increases Disease Risk

Potential signs of vitamin E deficiency include:

  • Dry skin
  • Hip fractures
  • Easy Bruising / Varicose Veins
  • PMS and/or Hot Flashes
  • Eczema and/or Psoriasis
  • Poor Wound Healing
  • Sterility
  • Liver and Gallbladder problems
  • Exhaustion after brief Exercise
  • Varicose Veins
  • Nerve Tingling in arms and legs
  • Trouble with Balance
  • Skeletal Muscle breakdown
  • Damage to the Retina
  • Poor Immune Response.[3]

Because of the many roles it plays, vitamin E deficiency is correlated with common health challenges from conception to old age, such as:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • High Cholesterol / Hypertension
  • Macular Degeneration / Cataracts
  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dermatitis / Eczema
  • Frequent Bruising / Varicose Veins
  • Muscle Aches and Cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Infertility
  • Menopausal Symptoms
  • Impaired Immunity / Frequent Illness
  • PMS
  • Constipation

Let’s laser in on three “E”xtremely important age-related challenges:

  • Cardiovascular Disease. As noted above, vitamin E protects against LDL cholesterol particles becoming oxidized and seeding atherosclerotic plaque build up. Vitamin E reduces blood coagulation in balance with vitamin K1, which promotes it.[4] Breaking up clots that otherwise can clog the bloodstream, vitamin E may reduce the risk of not only local atherosclerosis, but also venous thromboembolism, especially for those who have a genetic trend toward heart disease.[5] In a study published in the Lancet, vitamin E supplementation was shown to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) by 77 percent in patients with existing coronary artery disease. [6]
  • One of the eight forms of vitamin E, called delta-tocotrienol, can completely prevent the erosion of the bone surface and may also be effective in increasing bone formation and preventing bone resorption; Deficiency in another form of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol was associated with an 86%
increase in the rate of hip fracture, while use of alpha-tocopherol-containing supplements were associated with a 22% reduction in the rate of hip fracture. [7]
  • Difficulty with Balance, Coordination, and Cognition. In order to convert vitamin B12 from its inactive to its active form, you need vitamin E. Therefore, those with low vitamin E levels may risk a B12 deficiency, which starts as memory challenges and cognitive decline and can progress to pernicious anemia.
  • Obesity. Obesity is associated with lower vitamin E levels because fat sequesters this, and other, fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin E deficiency is also associated with other challenges that can lead to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes.

Who is likely to be vitamin E deficient?[8]

  • Premature Infants
  • People with Cystic Fibrosis / Pancreatic insufficiency / Low Lipase Production
  • Vegans, and to a lesser extent Vegetarians
  • Obese Individuals
  • Low fat Dieters
  • People with Poor Gallbladder Function / Gallbladder Removal
  • People with Liver Disease
  • People with Recent Gastric Bypass Surgery
  • People with Niacin or Vitamin C Deficiency (Both help recycle vitamin E.)

Let’s break down how to optimize your vitamin E status from food, lifestyle, and supplements so you get all the antioxidant benefits from the inside of your blood vessels to your outer skin.

Taking it E-asy

  • STEP ONE – FOOD: Power up with healthy plant fats to boost your dietary vitamin E.
    • Choose foods rich in vitamin E. Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are packed with vitamin E, as are sunflower, safflower, and olive oils. The humble avocado, papaya, spinach, sweet potato, dark leafy greens (especially mustard greens/swiss chard/kale), and wheat germ are excellent sources. However, vitamin E is in other healthy foods too, eggs from hens raised on pastures (free-range) contain 3 times more vitamin E than conventionally rasied hens.
    • Avoid processed foods. Vitamin E is greatly depleted by factory processing- that’s why you see it added to many foods and oils to keep them from going rancid! Nearly 90% of all bread and pasta sold in the United States is made with wheat flour processed to such a degree that 90% of the alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E proper) and 43% of the beta-tocopherol (an important form) is gone simply because the germ was removed during processing.[9]
    • Protect your Nuts, Seeds, and Oils from Oxidation. The vitamin E you eat can only benefit you if it hasn’t used up its antioxidant mojo keeping the food it is in from spoiling. Protect your nuts and seeds from light, heat, and oxygen by keeping in dark glass jars in the refrigerator. Keep oils in air-tight containers to avoid destroying this critical antioxidant. Nature traps nuts and seeds inside hardened shells to protect them from damage, and it still needs that protection in your care to deliver their micronutrients intact.
    • Avoid Antinutrients. Foods containing trypsin inhibitors, a plant’s natural insect repellent, can wreak havoc on your digestion because trypsin is an important digestive enzyme. Trypsin inhibitors can prevent you from absorbing not only fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), but also vitamin B12 and amino acids. Excessive trypsin inhibitors can even damage your gut lining and pancreas. Be wary of consuming excessive quantities in beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and nightshade vegetables (such as potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, goji berries, and eggplant). Sprouting and soaking your grains, nuts, and seeds can reduce this effect.[10]
  • STEP TWO – LIFESTYLE: Consider your digestion, medications, and overall health to support your vitamin E status.
    • Mind your Medications. Barbituates such as Dilantin, bile acid sequestrants, mineral oil, and orlistat have been shown to reduce vitamin E levels.
    • Munch Mindfully. Giving your body time to eat makes a huge difference in the production of digestive juices (acid, enzymes, and bile) that can do the hard work of digesting food and helping you to absorb this fat-soluble vitamin. Take your time.
    • Love your Liver and your Lungs. Avoid unnecessary chemical exposures that can cause free radical damage. While you may have no control over the air quality where you live, you can avoid first and second-hand smoke, fried foods and foods made with olestra, most processed foods (especially low-fat and low-calorie foods processed with questionable ingredients to achieve that label).
    • Exercise Thoughtfully. It is one thing to challenge yourself, it is another to damage yourself. Good stress, such as exercise, that promotes healing, repair, and metabolic flexibility, brings huge health returns. Just be mindful that you are treating yourself well, taking rest days if your routine is hyper-strenuous, and eating enough antioxidants (such as vitamin E and vitamin C) to repair the day afterward.
  • STEP THREE – SUPPLEMENTATION: Goldilocks (“just right” amount) is the key with all fat-soluble vitamins – including vitamin E.
    • Avoid excessive supplementation of vitamin E. Doses of vitamin E over 1000 mg (the RDI is 22 mg, so we would never suggest such a thing in order to achieve sufficiency) which can reduce absorption of and negate the beneficial effects of fat-soluble vitamin K. High dose vitamin E also interferes with absorbing vitamin A. It is important to get adequate vitamin E as well as vitamin A so they can both do their best work. The adequate presence of vitamin E can actually increase the absorption of vitamin A and help your body properly utilize vitamin K, so you won’t need to overdo it!
    • Roll with the RDA for a safe, E-ffective daily dose. The adult RDI is 22 IU, or 15 mg, of d-alpha-tocopherol. Because we can obtain vitamin E from our healthy plant fats and smart supplementation, the RDI is a good insurance policy. For most people more should not be necessary to obtain micronutrient sufficiency! Because other forms of vitamin E may have beneficial activity, we recommend getting a blend of all 8 (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta forms of tocopherol and tocotrienol). You may see vitamin E bound to arginate or succinate for stability, which will not compromise absorption. While there is no known toxicity for vitamin E, those taking a statin should keep daily intake under 100 IU (over four times the RDI) to avoid negating the anti-inflammatory effects of statins. Our Nutreince multivitamin contains 22 IU of naturally occurring vitamin E from non-GMO palm fruit as well as the full spectrum of tocopherols and tocotrienols.

Vitamin E, protector of e-very cell membrane in your body, defender against atherosclerotic heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cancer, partner in crime with vitamin C, and skin softener and smoother-outer extraordinaire, is one of the strongest players on your antioxidant team. Choose high quality fats and smart supplementation to get the most out of this E-xtraordinary vitamin!

[1] Micronutrient Miracle

[2] Micronutrient Miracle

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1587435

[4] Micronutrient Miracle

[5] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.716407

[6] N. G. Stephens, “Randomised Controlled Trial of Vitamin E in Patients with Coronary Disease: Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS),” Lancet 23, no. 347 (9004) (March 1996): 781–86.

[7] American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 
2014, Volume 99, Pages 107-114; doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.064691
“Intake and serum concentrations of α-tocopherol in relation to fractures in elderly women and men: 2 cohort studies” 
Authors: K. Michaelsson, A. Wolk, L. Byberg, J. Arnlov, H. Melhus

[8] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/#h5

[9] Micronutrient Miracle

[10] Micronutrient Miracle