What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a group of micronutrients that are of crucial importance for human health and vitality. Vitamin E includes eight similar compounds that occur naturally in plants and promote important antioxidative processes in the body of humans and animals.
In the field of human health and disease, vitamin E plays a role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance. Vitamin E also strengthens the immune system and has proven to be very effective in preventing various chronic diseases.
The body absorbs vitamin E through nuts, seeds and vegetable oils as well as green leafy vegetables and cereals. Although vitamin E is a vital nutrient, it does not have to be consumed daily because it can be stored in fatty tissue in the body.
Since vitamin E can't be produced by the body itself, the vital substance must be supplied through food. According to studies, only 50 percent of the population manages to meet their daily vitamin E needs through food.
Forms of vitamin E
The group of E vitamins can be divided into tocopherols and tocotrienols. The two main forms are alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol. However, only alpha-tocopherol is considered to be a vital form of vitamin E for human needs.
There are four tocopherol compounds: alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherol.
Tocopherols are lipids (fats) that differ in the structure of their saturated side chains. Alpha and gamma tocopherol are found in the serum and red blood cells. Beta and delta tocopherol in plasma.
Tocopherols can react with oxygen radicals (reactive oxygen species - ROS) and thereby protect important unsaturated fatty acids from oxidation. Due to this strong antioxidant effect, it is believed that they have a beneficial effect on a number of diseases such as inflammation, cancer and degenerative diseases.
Research suggests that alpha tocopherol may promote cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment. Alpha-tocopherols protect low-density lipoproteins (LDL) that help the body carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. If LDLs oxidize, this can promote the development of cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, it is assumed that natural tocopherol mixtures with a high gamma-tocopherol content protect against cancer better than those that are enriched with alpha-tocopherol.
There are four tocotrienol compounds: alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocotrienol. The basic structure of tocotrienols corresponds to that of tocopherols.
The only difference is the structure of the unsaturated side chains. As a result, they are more able to penetrate into the brain and liver, where they perform unique and important physiological functions on these two types of tissue.
Tocotrienols are highly antioxidant, very effective against cancer and cholesterol lowering. Researchers have found that they can suppress inflammation-promoting signals and thus help fight inflammation.
Tocotrienols have also been shown to be neuroprotective (protecting the nervous system) against a number of different toxins in the brain. In particular, research results suggest that tocotrienols play a key role in protecting brain cells from stroke-induced degeneration.
Vitamin E supplements
Vitamin E supplements vary in the concentration of the vitamin E units they contain, but rarely in their main component: alpha-tocopherol. However, the intake of this form of vitamin E could only cover part of the daily need.
Natural vitamin E
Naturally occurring vitamin E is available in 8 different forms. There are 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. The two groups have the same core structure, but differ in their side chains.
Vitamin E is produced in plants and mostly occurs in connection with fats. Alpha and gamma tocopherol are the most commonly produced forms of vitamin E. It is interesting that vegetable oils with a high alpha-tocopherol content often occur in combination with monounsaturated fatty acids, e.g. in olive oil. A high proportion of polyunsaturated, so-called essential fatty acids, often occurs together with gamma tocopherol, e.g. in corn oil.
Dominance of the alpha tocopherol
The main focus of research so far has been on alpha tocopherol. This form of vitamin E is the most common form found in the body. Inadequate intake of alpha-tocopherol also causes ataxia, which is characteristic of a vitamin E deficiency (generic term for various disorders of movement coordination). Vitamin E deficiency can only be remedied by adding alpha-tocopherol.
The body shows a clear preference for alpha-tocopherol, which also has the highest plasma concentration in the serum of all vitamin E forms. The enzyme responsible for the absorption and processing of alpha-tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol transfer protein, serves to enrich alpha-tocopherol and to metabolize non-alpha-tocopherol more quickly.
Relatively moderate results regarding the role of alpha-tocopherol in protecting against cardiovascular diseases or against cancer, however, led researchers to doubt the biological dominance of alpha-tocopherol.
Today, research is based on the view that 'the members of the Vitamin E family have unique biological functions that are not shared by other family members.' Particular reference is made to the little researched group of tocotrienols.
Tocotrienols - The slightly different vitamin E
The 4 tocotrienols - alpha-tocotrienol, beta-tocotrienol, gamma-tocotrienol and delta-tocotrienol are very similar to tocopherols, but differ from them both in their chemical structure and in their biological function, researchers prove with an ever increasing number of evidence:
- Tocotrienol as well as gamma and delta tocopherol have anti-inflammatory effects and could help with chronic diseases of the immune system
- Tocotrienols help prevent cancer
- Increased serum concentrations of tocotrienols and gamma-tocopherol reduce the risk of age-related loss of cognitive skills
- Lowest concentrations of alpha-tocotrienol protect against neurodegeneration and neurological diseases. Alpha-Tocoentriol is therefore considered the most effective of all E vitamins
- Tocotrienols protect against radiation exposure and therefore support cancer treatment
Based on the latest knowledge of the functions of 'other' forms of vitamin E, the composition of useful vitamin E preparations should be reconsidered. A single intake of alpha-tocopherol prevents or eliminates a pure vitamin E deficiency.
In addition, like all vitamin E forms, alpha tocopherol is an effective antioxidant. However, the entire spectrum of useful and protective functions of the vitamin E forms is only given by the addition of a combination of all vitamin E forms. Therefore, when taking vitamin E preparations, attention should always be paid to the composition of the vitamin E forms contained.
Vitamin E effect
The most important function of vitamin E in the human body is its action as an antioxidant. It neutralizes the free radicals that arise in the body through metabolic processes or through environmental influences. Integrated into the cell membranes, vitamin E protects the body cells from destruction by oxidation.
At the same time, vitamin E influences blood coagulation and protects against both blood clots and deposits in the blood vessels. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect and is involved in the metabolism of nucleic, amino and fatty acids.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant in the body, which protects cells from oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation. Vitamin E
- is anti-inflammatory
- is an important antioxidant in the body
- has anti-cancer properties
- supports a healthy cholesterol level
- protects against cardiovascular diseases
- protects the brain cells
- protects against diabetes
- strengthens the immune system
Vitamin E deficiency
A vitamin E deficiency can be noticed by the following symptoms.
- Poor concentration
- Muscle weakness
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Poor eyesight
- Wilted skin, age spots
- Inflammation and wound healing disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
Risk groups for vitamin E deficiency
- Expecting and nursing mothers
- People with fat absorption disorders
- Sick people and patients to improve convalescence
- Patients with dementia
- People who suffer from a weak immune system or stress
- People who permanently take a medication like the contraceptive pill
- Women suffering from premenstrual syndrome
- People on a one-sided diet
- People suffering from a biliary or pancreatic disease
Vitamin E - A powerful antioxidant
All members of the Vitamin E family are considered strong antioxidants that counteract oxidative attacks on the cell membrane. However, they differ from one another in the type and strength of their specific antioxidant effect.
Why is vitamin E an antioxidant?
An antioxidant is a chemical compound that can prevent oxidation, e.g. the release of electrons to other compounds. The strong antioxidant effect of vitamin E is based on its basic chemical structure. This is similar for all forms of vitamin E, but not identical. The central chromanol ring of vitamin E can release a hydrogen atom from its attached phenol group. This is able to interact with and intercept free radicals.
Vitamin E reduces oxidative damages
Evidence of the strong antioxidant effect of vitamin E comes from studies on lead workers. The oxidative damage to cell membranes and genetic material caused by lead poisoning could be significantly reduced by a long-term intake of vitamin E.
Tococentriols stronger than tocopherol
The antioxidant effect of vitamin E is not solely dependent on the chemical structure, but also results from other factors. Scientists believe that tococentriols are much more effective at catching peroxide radicals. This is due to the location of the tococentriols in the phospholipid double layer of the cell membrane.
Tococentriols are distributed much more regularly than other forms of vitamin E and are therefore probably better radical scavengers than, for example, alpha-tocopherol, the most common form of vitamin E.
Tococentriols protects people
The superior antioxidant effects of tococentriols are also evident in cancer treatment. Tococentriols have a protective effect against radiation exposure by trapping free radicals.
A study by the University of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia compared the effects of a tococentriol mixture with that of alpha-tocopherol in healthy people. After 6 months, various biomarkers showed higher antioxidant activity in the tococentriol group, but not in the alpha-tocopherol group. It is interesting, however, that women in particular benefited from the intake of tococentriol.
Other forms of vitamin E, such as gamma tocopherol, are characterized by higher specificity. For example, gamma tocopherol has an unsubstituted position with which it can bind highly reactive nitrogen compounds (also called reactive nitrogen species).
Reactive nitrogen species often arise from inflammation. This makes gamma-tocopherol a more effective antioxidant than alpha-tocopherol, which has a methyl group in the same position that makes this site unreactive.
In summary, all forms of vitamin E are powerful antioxidants. However, some forms of Vitamin E have specific effects, or are more effective than others. Tococentriole, an often neglected group of vitamin E forms, are stronger antioxidants than the tocopherol forms examined so far.
For optimal protection against cell damage and free radicals, special care should therefore be taken when taking vitamin E that all forms of vitamin E are present. Then vitamin E could even help reduce the overall risk of death by up to 17% as a Japanese study recently showed.  Vitamin E could definitely earn a place on the keychain for a longer life.
Vitamin E dosage
In order to guarantee optimal protection and effectiveness, the correct dosage of vitamin E must be observed. The recommended daily intake of vitamin E is age-dependent. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the body needs a little more vitamin E. The vitamin E requirement should be covered here with food supplements.
The German Nutrition Society provides the following estimates for an adequate intake of tocopherol (in mg equivalent per day):
0 to under 4 months 3 3 4 to under 12 months 4 4 Children
1 to under 4 years 6 5 4 to under 7 years 8 8 7 to under 10 years 10 9 10 to under 13 years 13 11 13 to under 15 years 14 12 Adolescents and Adults
15 to under 19 years 15 12 19 to under 25 years 15 12 25 to under 51 years 14 12 51 to under 65 years 12 12 65 years and older 11 Pregnant women 13 Breastfeeding women 17
When specifying vitamin E in international units (IU), the following conversions must be observed:
- 1 mg alpha-tocopherol corresponds to 1.49 IU of the naturally occurring form of tocopherol or 2.22 IU of the synthetic form
- 1 IU of the naturally occurring form of tocopherol corresponds to 0.67 mg alpha-tocopherol
- 1 IU of the synthetic form of tocopherol corresponds to 0.45 mg of alpha tocopherol
Increased daily requirement of vitamin E.
The need for vitamin E is age-dependent. Adolescents and adults between the ages of 15 and 25 have the highest need for vitamin E in order to guarantee optimal growth and development. Pregnancy and breastfeeding are also phases of life in which an increased intake of vitamin E is necessary.
However, there are other circumstances in which the body benefits from a more generous supply of vitamin E:
Positive effects of vitamin E in patients
- Vitamin E can protect against cardiovascular diseases. If you already suffer from a heart failure, increased intake of vitamin E could also have a positive effect. This is because vitamin E reduces oxidative stress and supports heart activity.
- Alcohol is also a trigger of oxidative stress. Alcoholism, usually in combination with an unbalanced diet, often leads to a lack of antioxidants. Increased intake of vitamin E could help relieve the liver.
- Vitamin E itself can help protect against cancer. If there is an illness, vitamin E can also support the treatment. For example, increased vitamin E intake reduces the side effects of breast cancer treatment.
- As mentioned above, vitamin E is particularly important in the growth phase of adolescents. In adolescents infected with HIV, an increased intake of vitamin E could support growth and curb the progress of the disease.
Vitamin E and air pollution
Oxidative stress caused by toxic particles and ozone in the air we breathe leads to lung damage. An intake of higher doses of vitamin E and vitamin C could weaken the harmful effects of increasing air pollution and protect the lungs.
Vitamin E in food
Foods that have a particularly high vitamin E content include nuts and seeds, whole grain cereals, vegetable oils, as well as spinach and other green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin E in foods is most commonly found as alpha-tocopherol and as gamma-tocopherol. However, the usually given guidelines for the daily intake of vitamin E mostly only refer to alpha-tocopherol.
Vitamin E content in food
The following table gives an overview of the vitamin E content of some foods. If possible, both the alpha-tocopherol and the gamma-tocopherol value are given. Data is in milligrams per 100 grams of food.
Wheatgerm oil 174 Not specified Multigrain muesli 126 Not specified Sunflower oil 62 Not specified Sunflower seeds 34 0 Almonds 26 less than 1 Hazelnuts 15 0 Pine nuts 9 11 Frozen spinach 4 0 Green olives 4 0 Raw spinach 2 0 Walnuts 2 28 Poppy seeds 2 9 Broccoli 2 0,4 Avocado 2 0 Canned tuna 1,7 Not specified Blackberries 1,4 0 Kiwi 1,3 0 Asparagus 1 0 Sesame 1 28 Pumpkin seeds 0 19
In order to cover the daily requirement of approximately 12 to 15 mg of vitamin E, a balanced diet should be ensured. If necessary, vitamin E should be taken from food supplements. Here, particular attention should be paid to the composition of the natural forms of vitamin E, since they have different functions in the body.
Vitamin E and Vitamin C
Vitamin E and vitamin C are vitamins that complement each other and have an antioxidant effect when used together.
The body needs enough vitamin C to take full advantage of the positive properties of vitamin E. This is because vitamin C can regenerate oxidized vitamin E.
The interaction of these two vitamins has been shown to help reduce oxidative stress caused by exertion, which is associated with skeletal muscle damage.
Furthermore, the combination of these two substances can inhibit UV damage and sunburn, thereby reducing the risk of skin aging due to solar radiation and the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin E - Heart and cholesterol
Atherosclerosis is a vascular disease with deposits in the arteries. High cholesterol and high blood pressure contribute to the build-up of deposits, which causes the arteries to harden and narrow. Atherosclerosis is a common cause of heart attacks and strokes.
A central factor in the development and development of arteriosclerosis is oxidative stress. Oxygen radicals underlie the beginning of inflammatory processes that lead to the formation of deposits and ultimately cause the health complications that then arise.
Oxidation plays a central role in arteriosclerosis. Vitamin E, in turn, has proven to be effective in increasing resistance to oxidation and preventing the formation of deposits. This finding is based on studies in people from the Mediterranean region who are known for their vitamin E-rich diet.
The supplementary intake of vitamin E has also been shown to reduce the risk factors for the formation of deposits in the arteries. Firstly, it was demonstrated that tocopherols have an inhibitory effect on lipid peroxidation and secondly, tocotrienols inhibit cholesterol synthesis. Both are known risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
However, there are indications from clinical studies that the supplemental intake of vitamin E reduces the risk of an ischemic stroke but increases the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke.
This is particularly true in the elderly, where the presence of vitamin E can affect blood clotting, increasing the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke.
Vitamin E and the nervous system
Vitamin E is classified as a lipophilic compound, which means that it is soluble in fats. This lipophilic property means that it is easily absorbed by brain cells and secreted through the membranes. Vitamin E acts as a protective shield against oxidative damage here.
Brain cells are very susceptible to oxidative stress. The damage caused by oxidative stress is pathologically associated with various neurodegenerative diseases. Vitamin E is a highly effective antioxidant that can protect neurons from oxidative stress-related damage and the onset of neurodegenerative processes.
Tocotrienol and tocopherol are powerful neuroprotective compounds that can protect brain cells with their antioxidant properties. Various studies have shown that the supplementary intake of vitamin E promotes the antioxidative abilities of the brain cells and helps to prevent oxidative damage.
Vitamin E and Alzheimer's
Due to the increasing life expectancy, Alzheimer's affects more and more people. There is currently no cure for it. However, vitamin E can protect the cells and delay or prevent the development of Alzheimer's. Vitamin E could play an important role in supporting memory.
Vitamin E and memory function
A balanced vitamin balance is the prerequisite for optimal cognitive skills. Vitamin E appears to play a special role here, say the results of various scientific studies:
An American study shows that insufficient levels of vitamin E in blood plasma are associated with poor memory. Studies on centenarians found high levels of vitamin E in those with the best mental performance. A study of 118 elderly people showed that people with an insufficient vitamin E concentration had poorer cognitive skills. A long-term study over 20 years showed that the long-term intake of vitamins E and C reduces the 'age of the brain' by one and a half years. A highly concentrated intake of vitamin E alone lowers the cognitive age by 2 years as compared to a lower vitamin E dose intake.
The vitamin E level in the blood therefore seems to be directly related to cognitive abilities. The first step in the development of Alzheimer's is usually a decrease in mental performance and memory.
Vitamin E maintains memory and reduces the risk of Alzheimer's
Results from an American study that followed the entire population of a county for over 8 years showed that vitamin E in combination with vitamin C is able to reduce the age-related decrease in memory performance. Long-term intake of vitamin E also reduces the direct risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's, while insufficient amounts of vitamin E in the blood are associated with an increased risk (2). This study shows a direct link between vitamin E, memory performance and Alzheimer's.
Vitamin E and Alzheimer's
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI, mild cognitive impairment) is considered a preliminary stage of Alzheimer's, which increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's by ten. Several studies looked at whether vitamin E could slow the gap from MCI to Alzheimer's. But this was not the case. However, vitamin E was able to maintain the cognitive abilities in Alzheimer's patients who also took the Alzheimer's medication memantine for longer.
Tocotrienol and Alzheimer's
However, the rather disappointing results of vitamin E in the prevention of Alzheimer's could be due to the form of vitamin E used. Recent studies, especially from cell culture experiments, show that tocotrientriole could be the far more effective form of vitamin E.
People with high tococentriol levels are 17% less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those with high alpha tocopherol levels. When using vitamin E to prevent Alzheimer's, special attention should be paid to the form of vitamin E.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant and protects the neurons
The exact mechanism by which vitamin E protects cognitive functions and protects against dementia and Alzheimer's is still controversial. However, the strong effect as an antioxidant is very likely to play an important role.
Oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species can destroy the mitochondria. This affects the energy supply to the cell. Neurons are particularly sensitive here - oxidative stress can lead to cell death. Vitamin E fights oxidative stress and free radicals, and can protect the neurons as a result of this.
Vitamin E, Glutamate and Alzheimer's
Glutamate is a neuronal messenger that is particularly important for memory and learning functions. However, scientists suspect too much glutamate could benefit the development of Alzheimer's. Cell culture experiments show that tocotrientriols can protect the neurons and their mitochondria from glutamate-induced damage. Excess glutamate also uses free radicals. Vitamin E has a double effect here and protects the cells of the brain from the most important stresses.
In conclusion: Vitamin E is essential for the maintenance of cognitive abilities and memory. Vitamin E can help protect the brain's nerve cells from age-related and environmental damage, therefore preventing Alzheimer's.
However, when taking vitamin E, care should be taken to consume sufficient amounts of tocotrientriols, as these have a particularly effective protective function.
Vitamin E and fertility
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and thus protects our cells from free radical attacks. This effect of vitamin E is also crucial for our fertility - in women and in men.
Oxidative stress and fertility
Free radicals are unstable and therefore highly active chemical compounds. Free radicals react with electrons from other compounds to stabilize them. In the body, free radicals often bind electrons from nucleic acids (DNA), fats, proteins, carbohydrates, or other molecules. This can lead to a cellular chain reaction and ultimately damage to cells and genetic material. Vitamin E binds free radicals and converts them e.g. into water molecules.
Free radical oxidative stress can affect male and female fertility. Oxidative stress contributes to the following complications:
- Complications in the first few weeks of pregnancy
- Inflammation of the lining of the womb (endometritis)
- Complications during childbirth
- Premature births
- Loss of fertility in old age
Male fertility: Infertility caused by
- low sperm quality
- reduced sperm motility
- damage to the sperm genetic material
Low vitamin E concentrations reduce the fertility
Male infertility is the cause of a lack of conception in up to 80% of all cases, mostly due to oxidative stress and low semen quality (3). An Italian study showed that the vitamin E content in the blood of infertile men is significantly lower than that in fertile men. Low vitamin E concentrations correlated with morphologically abnormal and less motile sperm.
Oxidative stress and an insufficient supply of vitamin E should be avoided, especially if fertility is reduced or if fertility is to be optimized if a child is to be born.
The increased intake of vitamin E can lead to a significant increase in fertility, both in men and in women.
Vitamin E and female fertility
An American study looked at the effects of antioxidants on time to pregnancy (TTP) in women with unexplained infertility. The scientists found that a high intake of vitamin E significantly shortened this period, especially in women over 35.
A systematic analysis of the existing literature about antioxidants including vitamin E and female fertility showed further positive effects of vitamin E and other antioxidants:
- Increase in the live birth rate by up to 23%
- Increase in conception rates by up to 11%
Taking sufficient or higher amounts of vitamin E can therefore significantly increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.
Vitamin E and male fertility
Several studies clearly indicate that taking vitamin E and other antioxidants has a positive effect on semen quality and fertility. Especially in the group of older men (older than 44 years) high vitamin E serum concentrations correlated with up to 20% less damaged genetic material as compared to normal or low vitamin E concentrations.
In couples who undergo assisted reproduction, those in which men take antioxidants such as vitamin E have up to 4.8 times higher success rates.
A systematic analysis of the existing literature confirms the positive effect of vitamin E on semen quality, morphology and functionality of the sperm. Increased vitamin E intake also increases the ability of sperm to bind to the egg and increases the success rate with assisted reproduction.
A two-month intake of vitamin E and vitamin C, for example, increased the pregnancy rate in previously unsuccessful couples from 7% to 48%. An increased intake of vitamin E can therefore make a decisive contribution to increasing male fertility.
In summary, it can be said that vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and protects the reproductive cells and the resulting embryo from free radicals and their harmful effects. Sufficient or increased intake of vitamin E should therefore be a fixed part of the diet at the beginning of family planning in order to optimize the success rate.
Vitamin E during pregnancy
The intake of vitamin E during pregnancy is important for the health of the mother and child. However, it is crucial to pay attention to the right amount of vitamin E to best support the child's development.
Vitamin for a successful pregnancy
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and should support mother and child in all stages of the pregnancy and early development. A combination of different antioxidants and vitamin E can increase the chances of a pregnancy with a positive course.
An analysis of all existing publications on this topic (meta-analysis) indicated that women who have problems getting pregnant can increase their success rate through antioxidants and vitamin E.
Some studies showed, that a vitamin E deficiency has also been linked to an increased occurrence of preeclampsia, a potentially very dangerous pregnancy complication. In women with a sufficient vitamin E deficiency, an additional intake of vitamin E does not reduce the risk of preeclampsia.
Excessive intake of vitamin E also does not reduce the risk of other complications during pregnancy, such as stillbirths or premature births. However, vitamin E could reduce the risk of a placental rupture.
Vitamin E can lower the risk of a miscarriage
Based on the available scientific studies, the World Health Organization (WHO) currently does not recommend an additional intake of vitamin E during pregnancy in women who have a sufficient vitamin E level.
However, this basic rule does not apply to all women who are planning on becoming pregnant. A recent study published in the International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine showed that vitamin E combined with aspirin increases blood flow in the uterine artery. Low blood flow in this artery can cause repeated spontaneous abortions (miscarriages). Vitamin E and aspirin can therefore reduce the risk of abortion under certain medical circumstances.
Vitamin E for a healthy child development
A sufficient concentration of vitamin E should be guaranteed during pregnancy. Inadequate vitamin E intake during pregnancy could have a negative long-term effect on the health of the child. Low concentrations of vitamin E in the mother's blood have been associated with the following short and long-term effects on the child:
In infancy and early childhood: Dwarfism
A sufficient supply of the child with vitamin E is very important, especially in the first 1000 days of life. Lack of vitamin E can lead to dwarfism. After this time window is closed, the growth delay can't be reversed.
In childhood and adolescence: Asthma
Supplying the unborn child with vitamin E affects the likelihood of developing asthma in the first 10 years of life. Long-term studies show that the lower the vitamin E value in the mother's blood, the higher the risk of asthma.
Vitamin E after childbirth
The optimal care of the baby after birth seems to depend on the age of the newborn. Researchers tested the concentration of vitamin E in breast milk and found a drastic drop in vitamin E concentration within the first 6 weeks. The concentration of vitamin E in colostrum (immediately after birth) was about 5 times higher than that in breast milk after 30 to 40 days.
The vitamin E requirement in newborns should therefore already be covered with sufficient amounts of vitamin E immediately after birth and is maintained afterwards.
In conclusion: Vitamin E is very important for a healthy pregnancy and child development. In this important phase of life, it is important to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin E, but this should not be exceeded.
Vitamin E and PMS
Almost 90% of all women of childbearing age are familiar with the problem - the menstrual period is coming and the body reports this in advance. With headache, irritability, nausea, abdominal cramps, depression, chest tightness and other symptoms.
While the signs are relatively mild in most cases, between 8 and 20% of all women suffer from the premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The symptoms are so severe that they impair normal life and/or interpersonal relationships.
Depending on the effects and severity of the symptoms, oral contraceptives (the pill), other hormones or antidepressants are prescribed.
While these drugs effectively fight the symptoms of PMS in many cases, side effects and undesirable consequences can occur, especially when taken over a long period of time. Vitamin E could offer a successful and much more tolerable alternative here.
Vitamin E reduces symptoms of PMS
Two large-scale clinical studies tested the effectiveness of vitamin E in relieving PMS:
A study with 130 participating women aged 15 to 45 years showed the effect of taking vitamin E for two months on premenstrual symptoms. Vitamin E was more successful in reducing symptoms than vitamin D or placebo. The main improvements were seen in depression and anxiety, as well as in food cravings.
In a study of 155 women with moderate to severe PMS, vitamin E also reduced the symptoms of PMS. Vitamin E was more effective than placebo in both categories - physical and psychosocial symptoms - and sometimes more effective than vitamin B6.
The results of these demonstrate the effectiveness of vitamin E in relieving PMS and premenstrual symptoms.
Does vitamin E work in all cases?
The effectiveness of vitamin E in fighting PMS could be particularly high in some women. On closer inspection, PMS (also called premenstrual tension syndrome or PMT) can be divided into different categories, depending on the symptoms. PMT-H is characterized here by water retention, bloating, and weight gain before the menstrual period. PMT-H is the second most common form of PMS. Vitamin E appears to be particularly effective in women with these symptoms.
In conclusion: A regular intake of vitamin E can reduce the physical and mental symptoms in the premenstrual phase, and therefore increase well-being in this critical time of the month.
Vitamin E and diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar. Due to a lack of insulin, the body is unable to lower blood sugar levels after eating.
Diabetes affects 10% of the population in Germany and is on the rise worldwide. Worldwide, 425 million people are affected and this number is expected to increase dramatically over the next few decades.
Overweight, smoking and lack of exercise promote the clinical picture. Diabetes is associated with a number of long-term complications, such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, that affect quality of life and reduce lifespan.
People with diabetes have to regulate their insulin balance by taking insulin for life. However, scientific studies show that vitamin E can significantly improve the symptoms and complications of diabetes.
Diabetes and oxidative stress
After eating, the concentration of glucose in the blood (blood sugar level) rapidly rises. Insulin is needed to deliver the glucose to the cells where it is needed. If the body produces too little insulin, the glucose concentration in the blood plasma remains too high. This leads to oxidative stress. Glucose molecules react with proteins and enzymes and change the physiological balance and enzyme activity. The epithelial layer of the blood vessels is a specific target for defective glycosylation. This can lead to functional disorders in the epithelial layer.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are another trigger for oxidative stress. The formation of ROS is promoted by excessive food intake, obesity and the absorption of saturated fatty acids. ROS affect the effectiveness of insulin and promote the development of insulin resistance - typical for diabetes.
Vitamin E and the development of diabetes
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and can reduce oxidative stress. The other way around, a lack of vitamin E can increase oxidative stress in the body. A study in apparently healthy people recently showed that this plays an important role in the development of diabetes. Here the vitamin E level of the test subjects was measured, as well as their oxidative status and glucose tolerance.
People with a reduced glucose tolerance can be classified as pre-diabetic with a high risk of developing diabetes. The study showed that prediabetes was clearly associated with an insufficient vitamin E level. This was confirmed by reduced antioxidant capacity. These results suggest that a vitamin E deficiency and/or an impairment of the body to counteract oxidative stress is associated with the development of diabetes.
It is important here that the people showed no further signs of diabetes and did not belong to any risk group. Adequate intake of vitamin E through food or supplements could therefore help prevent the development of diabetes in otherwise healthy people.
Vitamin E improves the symptoms of diabetes
However, the antioxidant properties of vitamin E are not only effective before the development of diabetes. Vitamin E can also significantly influence the course of the disease and the risk of disease consequences. Two studies looked at the effects of vitamin E in people with type 2 diabetes:
- 170 people with diabetes were divided into 4 groups that were treated with either vitamin E, vitamin C, a combination of vitamin E and C or a placebo for 3 months. People who took vitamin E and/or vitamin C showed significantly improved blood sugar levels (HbA1c), reduced blood pressure, and an increase in antioxidative enzymes.
- In a study of 40 people with diabetes who were treated with metformin, they took either vitamin E, vitamin C, a combination of both vitamins, or a placebo for 90 days. An analysis of the blood samples after the trial period showed that the intake of vitamin E and/or vitamin C improves the insulin level, reduces insulin resistance, lowers the blood sugar level and increases the activity of antixoidative enzymes.
A meta-analysis of all published studies compared the effectiveness of various antioxidants on diabetes, and showed that vitamin E was the most effective in lowering blood sugar levels. Vitamin E therefore appears to be particularly suitable for improving the symptoms of diabetes.
Vitamin E is particularly effective in some people with diabetes
Several studies have shown that vitamin E can help reduce the risk of a cardiovascular disease. This has also been observed in people with diabetes, but not in all studies. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
The decisive factor here is the genetic difference in the DNA that codes for the haptoglobin protein. Haptoglobin binds free hemoglobin in the blood plasma to prevent oxidation by the heme-iron compound. Diabetics with the haptoglobin Hp2-2 genotype have a particularly high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. However, it is precisely this group of patients who seems to benefit most from vitamin E intake.
Vitamin E reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by around 35% as compared to a placebo. The antioxidative effect of vitamin E seems to offer effective protection against cardiovascular diseases. There was clear molecular evidence of an improvement in blood vessel function in a clinical study after taking vitamin E for eight weeks.
In conclusion: Vitamin E plays an important role in the development of diabetes. Therefore, a balanced vitamin E level should be taken preventively. In people with existing diabetes, taking vitamin E can have a major impact on the symptoms of diabetes. Vitamin E can also reduce the risk of a serious secondary disease and offer protection against cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamin E for healthy eyes
The additional intake of vitamin E over a long period of time can have a positive effect on age-related loss of vision, such as the formation of cataracts. Age-related cataracts, e.g. the clouding of the lens, are usually the result of damage that has occurred over the years.
A long-term study found that people who took vitamin E supplements for at least 10 years had clearer eye lenses. Compared to those who did not take any vitamin E supplements, the clouding of the lenses and the associated formation of cataracts were significantly lower.
Vitamin E and cancer
Researchers have known for many years that vitamin E has the potential to inhibit cancer. This insight is based on the knowledge that vitamin E deficiency increases the risk of cancer. In addition, the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E appears to have a very protective effect.
Researchers have also shown that gamma and delta tocopherols could even help prevent lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancer. In these studies, supplementation with vitamin E daily reduced the incidence of these cancers and slowed the progression of other cancers.
For their part, tocotrienols are also associated with preventing the spread of cancer cells and triggering apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Among the four tocotrienols, delta and gamma tocotrienols have the greater anti-cancer activity than alpha and beta tocotrienols.
Vitamin E and beautiful skin
With its photoprotective and antioxidative effects, vitamin E is particularly suitable for skin care. Vitamin E protects the skin and maintains its natural beauty.
Vitamin E has been used in skin care and in the treatment of skin-specific diseases for more than 50 years. This is due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin E.
Vitamin E in the skin
Vitamin E taken through food is deposited in the skin, among other things. However, it takes a few days before it reaches the skin via the sebaceous glands and finally the epidermis, the uppermost layer of skin. The highest concentration of vitamin E is found in the skin. Vitamin E is the most important antioxidant found in the skin.
Vitamin E occurs in different forms in the skin and should therefore be taken in a combination of the different forms. Tococentriols are far stronger antioxidants than the better known tocopherols. This should also be taken into account with the effect of vitamin E in the skin.
How vitamin E reaches the skin
Vitamin is a lipophilic vitamin and can therefore easily penetrate through the lipid layers of the skin. This means that vitamin E can not only get into the skin from the inside, but also from the outside.
When used externally, it should be kept in mind that isolated vitamin E is not very stable. Recent developments try to optimize the external use of vitamin E. For example, vitamin E is packaged in nanoparticles that are absorbed by the skin and release vitamin E directly in the skin.
Natural external uses of vitamin E have been known for centuries; many oils contain rich mixtures of vitamin E. Palm oil, wheat germ oil and olive oil are particularly rich in vitamin E complexes.
Vitamin E as an antioxidant in the skin
Vitamin E is an effective antioxidant and binds free radicals, which can lead to cell damage and premature skin aging. The antioxidative effect of vitamin E forms the basis for the protective properties of vitamin E in the skin:
- Vitamin E binds the free radicals that are caused by UV radiation
- Vitamin E protects the skin from UV-related damage
- Vitamin E counteracts inflammation in the skin
- Vitamin E supports and accelerates wound healing
- Vitamin E slows down the aging process of the skin due to light
- Vitamin E helps with a variety of dermatological diseases
Vitamin E as sun protection
External use of vitamin E helps to reduce sun-related skin damage. Vitamin E's ability to prevent the oxidative breakdown of lipids in the skin is particularly effective here. This releases free radicals, which can then lead to further cell damage. Vitamin E also reduces the reddening of the skin caused by UV radiation. The activation of immune cells by sun exposure can also be reduced by using vitamin E.
Animal studies have also shown that vitamin E can slow the development of skin cancer in mice. It is important to note that the external use of vitamin E is not considered sun protection, since vitamin E can't absorb UVA or UVB rays.
Not only the external application, but also the intake of vitamin E offers protection against the effects of light. Adding a combination of vitamin C and vitamin E increases the skin's resistance to sunburn. Vitamin E and vitamin C also reduce the extent of UV-related damage to human genetic material.
Vitamin E is anti-inflammatory
Experiments with cell cultures show that vitamin E slows down various cellular processes that are activated in the course of inflammation. Tococentriols often have a stronger effect than the more commonly used alpha tocopherols. Tococentriols can interfere with both directed immune responses (antigen-specific) and non-specific immune responses. This can reduce inflammatory processes.
Vitamin E heals wounds
Molecular observations show that the concentration of vitamin E around a fresh wound decreases dramatically. As the wound heals, vitamin E and other antioxidants are transported to the wound to aid healing. Although the exact effect of vitamin E on wound healing in humans is still unclear, the intake of vitamin E, often in conjunction with zinc and vitamin C, is recommended for the prevention of bedsores.
Experiments with human cell cultures also show that vitamin E supports the building of blood vessels for wound care. Vitamin E could therefore be a useful component of wound dressings for larger skin injuries.
Vitamin E maintains the beauty of the skin
Environmental influences and damage from UV radiation accelerate the aging process of the skin. This manifests itself in the increased appearance of wrinkles and the loss of elasticity. The antioxidative and photo-protective properties of vitamin E are a possible component in slowing down this process. The scientific analysis of a mixture of vitamin E with the plant substances resveratrol and baicalin confirmed the effect of vitamin E. Using the combination for 12 weeks gave the following results:
- Reduction of wrinkles and lines
- Tighter and more elastic skin
- Reduction of age spots
- Skin thickness was increased by 19%
These results show that vitamin E can contribute to an optical and physiological rejuvenation of the skin.
Vitamin E helps in dermatology
Vitamin E supports the treatment of various dermatological diseases. The clear mode of action of vitamin E is mostly still unclear here:
- Yellow nail syndrome: This syndrome of unclear origin is associated with growth disorders. The nails turn yellow and thicken, and fluid retention and lymphedema can occur. High-dose long-term intake of vitamin E is successfully used as a treatment for yellow nail syndrome.
- Vitamin E is also used against certain eczema disorders and dermatoses, especially those that do not respond to conventional treatments.
- Vitamin E can also be successful in the treatment of neurodermatitis, the genetic epidermolysis bullosa, as well as psoriasis and Hailey-Hailey's disease.
Vitamin E plays an important role in the treatment of specific dermatological diseases and can support its treatment. However, the effect of taking vitamin E usually has to be checked individually.
In conclusion: Vitamin E is an important component of healthy skin and can counteract skin changes caused by age or illness. Vitamin E protects the skin from the consequences of UV radiation and repairs the damage. Adequate intake of vitamin E and adequate external use can help keep the skin healthy and beautiful.
Vitamin E and beautiful hair
Hair has important physiological functions, such as protection from direct sunlight and overheating. However, hair is also of great sociological importance. Thinning hair and hair loss occur in men and women and are associated with negative attributes and sensations in both genders.
The cause of hair loss is complex and can have genetic components. Hair loss can be a symptom of disease, mental burdens and stress. Thinning hair is also a typical sign of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency.
Vitamin E supports hair growth from the hair roots and promotes full and strong hair. It can counteract hair loss and support the shine and elasticity of the hair.
Traditional remedies with vitamin E for hair loss
Oils have been used in numerous cultures for hair care for centuries. Scientists examined the effectiveness of some oils and compared them to each of vitamin E. Vitamin E and mustard seed oil proved to be more effective than coconut or amla tree oil. The researchers suspect that the high vitamin E content of the oils is at least partially responsible for their effectiveness in hair care.
How does vitamin E work on the scalp?
The effect of vitamin E tinctures on hair growth has been proven for decades. However, the exact mechanism of vitamin E is still unclear. Scientists examined the effect of vitamin E and came to amazing results:
- Vitamin E makes hair follicles younger again
- Vitamin E activates the stem cells of the hair follicles
- Vitamin E supports the hair structure as a powerful antioxidant
Vitamin E as a fountain of youth for hair
Hair, just like skin cells, is not continuously renewed. Hair follicles go through spontaneous cycles of growth, degeneration and rest phases. A group of scientists from Egypt and the USA recently showed that a vitamin E tincture rich in tocotrienol brings the hair follicles into the growth phase.
The activity of the hair follicles was similar to that in the embryonic development phase.  Vitamin E is therefore able to activate hair growth by activating molecular signals in the cell.
Vitamin E, fat cells and beautiful hair
Fat cells generally have a bad reputation. However, the fat cells in the scalp should be an exception. A publication in the prestigious journal Nature recently showed that the white fat cells in the scalp are responsible for the activation of hair follicles and hair growth.
White fat cells in the skin are rich in vitamin E, which could therefore promote the activation of the hair follicles and their stem cells through the communication between the follicles and the fat cells.
Vitamin E as an antioxidant for skin and hair
Thinning hair and dry, cracked skin are a typical sign of increased oxidative stress on the skin. The reason for this is a breakdown of the collagen fibers in the skin and hair. The intake of vitamin E led to a clear improvement in the skin structure and collagen fibers in mice. Maintaining a healthy vitamin E level could therefore support the collagen structure in the skin and hair.
Vitamin E for full hair
The direct effect of increased vitamin E intake on hair growth was also examined by a study in test subjects with hair loss. Taking 100 mg of a mixture of different tocotrienols for 8 months gave positive results.
Compared to the placebo group, taking vitamin E resulted in a 35% increase in hair count. These results show that the targeted intake of vitamin E can stop hair loss and promote hair growth.
In conclusion: Vitamin E supports hair growth by directly activating the hair follicles and can counteract hair loss. However, it is important to pay attention to the combination of the vitamin E forms when taking, which tocotrienols could be more effective than tocopherols.
Vitamin E and scars
Wound healing is an impressive process and proof of the skin's ability to regenerate, which makes us able to survive in its environment. While wound healing follows a functionally mature process, the remaining appearance is often not perfect.
Wound healing is usually associated with scarring. Scars can be a major cosmetic problem, especially with larger wounds. Visible scars, e.g. on the face, can also lead to great psycho-social stress and significantly impair the quality of life.
Scars cannot be prevented. However, there are ways to sustainably improve the appearance of scars. Vitamin E could help scars heal faster and fade their appearance.
Scars are an inevitable testimony to successful wound healing, but they often pose a cosmetic problem. Vitamin E could help scarring.
The main function of wound healing is to reduce the risk of infection. The resulting scar therefore has the task of keeping the wound permanently closed. The external image of the scar is irrelevant from a physiological point of view. The shape of the resulting scar depends on various factors:
- Type of wound (cut, burn, etc.)
- Type of wound healing and support (sutures, gluing, self-healing)
- Anatomical location of the wound
- Initial wound care
- Ethnic background
Scars are divided into different groups depending on their appearance:
- Atrophic scars: are slightly recessed, e.g. acne scars
- Hypertrophic scars: too much tissue is formed here, often with surgical scars. However, these mostly recede.
- Kleoid scars: here there is proliferating tissue that can extend beyond the edge of the scar and does not recede. Kleoid scarring is inherited.
Scars and Vitamin E
External treatment of the scars with creams and lotions is probably the most widespread method to support scar regression. Vitamin E has long been an important factor in early wound care and preventing scarring.
The question of whether vitamin E can positively influence the appearance of scars is controversial. Although vitamin E has been used to treat scars for decades, researchers are divided as to whether this effect can be scientifically proven:
- An Italian study examined the effect of vitamin E on scarring in 428 children who underwent surgery. This study found that the appearance of the scars after 6 months was significantly better in the vitamin E group than in the placebo group.
- In a study of 15 patients with scars on different parts of the body, a mixture of vitamin E, hydrocortisone and silicone was more effective than placebo or onion extract.
- Another study in 122 post-surgery patients found no difference between vitamin E and the placebo group after 16 weeks.
- In another study with surgical patients, vitamin E was nothing more effective than skin lotion in terms of scar size, scar thickness and appearance.
In conclusion: There is currently still a disagreement among scientists as to whether vitamin E can have a lasting effect on the appearance of scars. However, it is undisputed that vitamin E plays an important role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in the skin and thus makes a decisive contribution to the optimal care of the skin in the event of illness and injury. However, the effect of vitamin E on scar formation and regression should be examined in detail before clear statements can be made.
Vitamin E and sports
In the human body, the brain, heart and skeletal muscles are known to consume most of the energy, nutrients and oxygen. Oxygen radicals are generated within the cells of the brain and muscles during energy metabolism, which can cause considerable damage if the cells do not protect themselves.
Vitamin E is found in an enriched form in the cell membranes of the brain and muscles exactly where the oxygen radicals are generated. In addition to important antioxidative enzymes and other antioxidative molecules, vitamin E helps protect the cells from oxidative damage as part of the oxidation protection shield.
Physical activity is known to exacerbate the formation of oxygen radicals in the muscle cells through the increased need for energy generation. These reactive species cause oxidative damage and muscle injuries and may be the reason for the delayed onset of muscle pain in this tissue.
Supplementing vitamin E can help prevent oxidative damage from physical exertion by accessing the substance's antioxidant properties.
In addition, it could be demonstrated that vitamin E increases the occurrence of creatine kinase, which is regarded as a biomarker for increased muscle repair activities.
Vitamin E interactions
Vitamin E affects cyclosporin, the uptake of which increases, which can lead to increased side effects.
Supplementing vitamin E improves the liver function, which can increase the breakdown of medication that are metabolized by the liver. These include: lovastatin, ketoconazole, itraconazole and other medication.
Vitamin E overdose
If vitamin E is ingested through food, an overdose is not possible and any side effects can be excluded. However, caution should be exercised when taking very high doses of vitamin E supplements in the long term.
A slightly increased risk of stroke was observed in a long-term study in American men who consumed 400 IU vitamin E every other day. Neither vitamin E nor vitamin C had an impact on the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases in this study.
Interestingly, this was not confirmed in a comparable study in women who took 600 IU vitamin E every other day.
A Finnish study showed that taking 50mg of vitamin E daily has no increased lung cancer cases. In contrast, beta carotene was shown to increase the incidence of lung cancer. However, it should be noted that the study was carried out with smokers aged 50 to 69 years. At the same time, it was shown that there were fewer cases of prostate cancer in the group taking alpha tocopherol.
These different results indicate that other factors may be responsible for the observed increase in risk.
Based on the available results, the American National Institute of Health recommends not exceeding the following maximum levels when taking vitamin E (in IU/international units):
1 to under 3 years 200 IU 200 IU 4 to under 8 years 300 IU 300 IU 9 to under 13 years 600 IU 600 IU Adolescents and Adults
14 to under 18 years 800 IU 800 IU 19 years and older 1000 IU 1000 IU Pregnant women 1000 IU Breastfeeding women 1000 IU
Reasons for taking vitamin E
Vitamin E is vital for human health and well-being.
Vitamin E deficiency can cause serious neurological damage, which is associated with muscle weakness, retinal degeneration and the resulting visual disturbances. In addition, such a deficiency has a negative impact on the immune system and cardiovascular health.
Vitamin E can also be taken to support the following functions:
- to protect brain cells from damage
- for a healthy heart and blood vessels
- for improved night vision
- for healthy aging
- for cancer-inhibiting properties
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