For many years, scientists have tried to understand the secret of the most controversial vitamin. We figure out why you need it and who should take it.
What is Vitamin E
Vitamin E refers to eight substances from two groups - alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta tocopherols (α-, β-, γ- and δ-tocopherols) and their corresponding tocotrienols.
Α-tocopherol (E 307) can be found most often in food, in preparations, and cosmetics. According to one of the hypotheses, only it is sufficiently absorbed by the human body since there is a separate protein for its transportation. Other types of vitamin E are partially or destroyed in the liver.
Α-tocopherol is found in vegetable oils, wheat germ, herbs, nuts, and some fruits.
On the market, you can find products with other tocopherols and tocotrienols (E306, E308). But there is no scientific reason to favor the E307.
Vitamin E is fat-soluble. Once in the gastrointestinal tract, it first enters the bloodstream and then the liver. From there, lipoproteins again deliver it into the bloodstream and carry it throughout the body.
We get a significant part of vitamin E from foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). It is a beneficial type of fatty acid that lowers blood cholesterol, prevents plaque build-up, and protects the cardiovascular system. Also, the cell membranes are composed of fats based on PUFAs.
PUFAs are very quickly oxidized by oxygen and destroyed. This is where vitamin E comes into play, protecting them from oxidation much more effectively than other antioxidants. With PUFA, vitamin E is incorporated into cell membranes and protects the cell's outer membrane from free radicals floating.
Vitamin E intake:
- Newborns up to 6 months - 4 mg;
- Infants 7-12 months - 5 mg;
- Children 1-3 years old - 6 mg;
- Children 4-8 years old - 7 mg;
- Children 9-13 years old - 11 mg;
- Children 14-18 years old, adults, pregnant women - 15 mg;
- Women during lactation - 19 mg
Proven Vitamin E Benefits
Vitamin E was discovered in 1922. In experiments on rats, scientists have found that if vegetable fats, wheat, and greens are removed from their diet, the rodents will become sterile over time. Therefore, vitamin E was originally accepted as a substance that provides fertility. The very word "tocopherol" in translation from Greek means "giving life." However, the hypothesis of the relationship between childbirth and vitamin E in humans has not been confirmed.
Since then, scientists have been trying to establish the effects of vitamin E on the human body.
Protects cells from oxidation
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, a substance that protects cells from the damaging effects of oxygen. Moreover, it protects PUFAs and cell membranes more effectively than other antioxidants. This is the only role of the vitamin in human biochemistry that scientists are confident about.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E strengthens the immune system, protects body cells from premature aging, reduces inflammation, and reduces the risk of developing diseases associated with oxidative stress - cataracts, arthritis, tumors, Alzheimer's disease, hypertension, and vascular disease.
Good for hair and scalp
Some studies show that vitamin E strengthens weak and brittle hair and stimulates blood circulation in the scalp, thereby preventing hair loss. In the 2010s, the cosmetics industry billed it as almost a panacea for hair. Vitamin E is found in many shampoos, conditioners, and masks for damaged hair, as well as hair loss treatments.
This function of vitamin E is not yet fully understood. However, there is no evidence that its use in shampoos and scalp cosmetics can harm.
Vitamin E deficiency
Only a doctor can accurately diagnose vitamin E deficiency. Often, its symptoms are:
- difficulties with coordination;
- muscle weakness;
- deterioration of vision;
- general malaise.
Acute vitamin E deficiency is very rare today. It is almost always caused by diseases that impair liver function and the intestines' ability to metabolize fats. These include:
- chronic pancreatitis;
- cirrhosis of the liver;
- malabsorption syndrome;
- cystic fibrosis;
- Crohn's disease;
- short bowel syndrome;
- cystic fibrosis;
- Bassen-Kornzweig syndrome.
In most cases, doctors prescribe vitamin E supplements exclusively to those who suffer from these conditions. They recommend that healthy people get it only from food.