Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant found naturally in foods, such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds. Vitamin E is also commonly added to certain supplements for its antioxidant value, to protect the quality of formulations containing fats. Vitamin E exists naturally in eight different chemical forms, collective known as tocopherols. Alpha (α) –tocopherols is the most potent form of the vitamin and the only one considered to meet human needs.
Alpha-tocopherol specifically contributes to a number of functions in the body, in addition to its antioxidant capabilities, including roles in cell signalling, gene expression, cell replication and blood clotting. Recent research shows that immune, liver and cognitive (specifically Alzheimer’s) health are boosted with Vitamin E supplementation.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble molecule and acts primarily to protect fats of the cell membranes and fat transportation vehicles (known as lipoproteins) such as LDL and HDL cholesterol. Without adequate vitamin E, fats in the cells and lipoproteins are easily oxidised and damaged, rendering them inactive and causing subsequent health problems. Vitamin E deficiency is relatively rare and only likely in those with fat malabsorption issues, as in cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease and certain genetic conditions. As vitamin E is stored in the liver and easily obtained through the diet, meeting the RDA (15mg/day) is considered adequate for health. Whilst the recommended upper tolerable limit for vitamin E is 800mg for adults, supplemental vitamin E intake has been shown to increase risk of premature death when above 400IU (240mg) per day long term. Those consuming supplements which contain vitamin E, such as multivitamins or fish oils, are safe to continue, provided they consume doses below 200mg daily.