Vitamin E, or alpha-tocopherol, is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is predominantly found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood, and fruits. It is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that has several health benefits. It is found naturally in many foods and supplements. It may prevent heart disease, treat nervous system disorders, promote eye health, prevent the signs of aging, and improve hair health. In this article, we have discussed the potential health benefits of vitamin E, its sources, and the possible side effects it may cause.
Table Of Contents
Benefits Of Vitamin E
1. May Prevent Heart Disease
Vitamin E is a naturally occurring antioxidant and is said to possess several cardio protective properties that may help in preventing heart disease (1). The accumulation of bad cholesterol in the arteries causes your heart to pump harder to circulate blood, thereby increasing the risk of a heart attack. It also prevents the formation of blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack. A study conducted by the Lancaster General Hospital (USA) found that vitamin E negates the effects of bad cholesterol by preventing it from oxidizing and lining up the arteries (1).
Another study conducted by the Chicago Medical School (USA) on mice found that the consumption of foods that are rich in vitamin E is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart diseases in middle-aged men and women(2). However, more studies are required to verify this benefit of vitamin E.
2. May Help Treat Nervous System Disorders
Vitamin E may prevent or minimize oxidative stress, which may counteract the molecular basis of brain aging and neurodegeneration. It aids the transmission of electrical signals between nerve cells of the brain and body. Furthermore, vitamin E may slow down memory loss in people with severe Alzheimer’s disease (3).
Vitamin E administration may reduce memory and cognitive deficits (4). However, long-term research is required to understand this benefit of vitamin E in humans.
3. May Promote Eye Health
Vitamin E supplementation has been associated with a reduced risk of aging-related cataract. A study conducted by Qingdao University Medical College (China) found that dietary vitamin E intake may decrease the risk of age-related cataract, which is the most common cause of significant vision loss in older people (5).
Another study conducted on healthy women aged 45 years or older found that vitamin E as a component of an antioxidant combination can help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (6).
4. May Prevent Signs Of Aging
Vitamin E boosts the production of collagen, a fiber-like protein that is responsible for maintaining skin elasticity (7). It, thereby, reduces the occurrence of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage and slow down the aging process of cells (8).
5. May Act As A Moisturizer
Vitamin E is an oil-soluble nutrient and, hence, heavier than water-soluble products. It works best on dry and damaged skin since it restores the lost moisture. Thus, it restores and rejuvenates dehydrated skin (9).
6. May Help In Wound healing
Research is limited in this regard. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that vitamin E has some curative properties that may help in wound healing. Vitamin E is the major lipid-soluble antioxidant in the skin and can speed up the wound-healing process (10).
7. May Prevent Skin Cancer
The powerful antioxidative property of vitamin E acts as a protective shield against the harmful effects of the sun that cause the multiplication of cancerous cells. A study conducted by the University of Padua (Italy) reported that vitamin E is involved in the inhibition of melanin synthesis. Thus, it can inhibit the growth of melanoma (skin cancer) cells (11).
However, more long-term research is required to verify this benefit of vitamin E in humans.
8. May Reduce The Appearance Of Scars
Vitamin E applied to the skin, taken as a supplement, or both might treat scars or prevent them from forming. However, research is very limited in this regard. Anecdotal evidence suggests that vitamin oil can penetrate deep into the skin to repair the scar tissue at the source, thereby helping to diminish the appearance of blemishes.
People who do not have an allergic reaction to vitamin E may useit to reduce the appearance of scars.
9. May Treat Skin Disorders
Vitamin E may keep your skin moisturized and prevent dry skin and symptoms like itchiness. It keeps your skin supple, combats the dryness of eczema, and restores skin elasticity. A study conducted in Iran stated that vitamin E supplements have shown significant improvement in eczema symptoms (12). Vitamin E can also restore the mechanism of skin regeneration, thereby effectively treating psoriasis. However, limited research is available to prove this benefit of vitamin E.
Vitamin E is also known to lead to quick recovery from sunburns, though this has not been scientifically proven. But, some anecdotal evidence suggests that vitamin E contains antioxidants that neutralize the effects of free radicals caused by ultraviolet radiation, thus soothing sunburns.
10. May Treat Cystic Fibrosis
Vitamin E supplements are known to help fight off the effects of cystic fibrosis that results in pancreatic blockage.Vitamin E supplements help children with cystic fibrosis maintain adequate weight and alleviate the pancreatic blockage that results from its deficiency (13).
11. May Promote Hair Health
Vitamin E repairs damaged hair follicles and encourages healthy hair growth.Its antioxidant property improves the circulation of blood to all parts of the body, including the scalp. It conditions your hair from the root to the shaft and ensures healthier growth. It is effective in slowing down the aging process, be it your skin or hair. The potent antioxidants present in vitamin E can effectively prevent the corrosion of tissues, thereby reducing the probability of premature graying. However, research is limited to prove this point.
Furthermore, it may also help counteract the effect of higher environmental risk factors like a high exposure to UV rays, pollution, and cigarette smoking. Vitamin E provides some extra protection and helps repair damaged cells.
Check out the next section to find out how you can add vitamin E to your diet.
Sources Of Vitamin E
Some of the food sources that can help you naturally supplement vitamin E include:
- Sunflower Seeds
An ounce of dry-roasted sunflower seeds delivers 7.4 mg of vitamin E, which basically amounts to close to 90% of your daily requirement (14). In case sunflower seeds are difficult to find, you can replace it with a tablespoon of sunflower oil since it provides 5.6 mg of vitamin E (15).
Just half an avocado contains 2 mg of vitamin E and 161 calories (16). It makes up a major chunk of both your vitamin E as well as calorie intake.
- Pine Nuts
One ounce of pine nuts contains 2.6 mg of vitamin E and 191 calories (17). You can either add pine nuts to your salads for more texture or drizzle some pine nut oil on them.
Spinach is a very nutritious green that contains adequate amounts of calcium, folate, and vitamin E (18). One cup of boiled spinach can make up 20% of your required vitamin E intake. It is also a good source of fiber that helps in weight management.
Kale is an increasingly popular salad green that also contains a decent amount of vitamin E (19). It is abundant in many nutrients, and one cup of boiled kale can cover 6% of your daily vitamin E requirement.
- Turnip Greens
These are not the most delectable greens, but they are highly nutritious. Half a cup of turnip greens contains 2.9 mg of vitamin E and only 24 calories (20).
- Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is the healthiest among all greens as it contains abundant amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, along with enough vitamin E (21). One cup of boiled Swiss chard is accountable for 17% of your daily vitamin E requirement.
- Mustard Greens
A lot like Swiss chard, mustard greens contain a variety of essential nutrients. One cup of boiled greens contains about 14% of your dietary requirement of vitamin E (22).
Nuts usually contain a high concentration of vitamin E, and about 7.5 mg of this vitamin is found in every ounce of almonds (23).
Parsley may not add much flavor and texture to your salad, but it is adequately rich in vitamin E (24).
How Much Vitamin E Should You Take?
The amount of vitamin E you consume every day depends on your age. Theaverage daily recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E is listed below in milligrams (8):
Birth-6 months – 4 mg
Infants 7-12 months – 5 mg
Children 1-3 years – 6 mg
Children 4-8 years – 7 mg
Children 9-3 years – 11 mg
Teens 14-18 years – 15 mg
Adults – 15 mg
Pregnant women – 15 mg
Breastfeeding women – 19 mg
Now, let’s check out what vitamin E deficiency can do to your body.
Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient required for the development and maintenance of the human body.A deficiency of vitamin Emanifests in the form of:
- Dryness of skin
- Mild anemia
- Decreased sex drive
- Reproductive and fertility issues
- Leg cramps
- Gastrointestinal problems
Check out how to use vitamin E on your skin in the next section.
How To Use Vitamin E
Vitamin E and its supplements are easily available in stores. If you want to use vitamin E oil, do a patch test before you start using it. If no reaction occurs in 24-48 hours, it is safe for you to use. Apply a thin layer of low concentrated oil over the affected area. Read the label carefully and avoid exceeding the recommended dosage as it may lead to adverse effects. You can add vitamin E oil to a thick moisturizing cream to get greater skin benefits. Adding vitamin E oil may enhance the moisturizing property of the cream.
Vitamin E has many health benefits and is generally considered safe. But, before you go ahead and start consuming it, it is better to be aware of its potential side effects.
What Are The Side Effects Of Vitamin E?
Vitamin E usage mostly includes oral consumption or topical application. When consuming orally, it is advisable to limit the dosage of vitamin E to 15 mg daily. Exceeding this limit may cause serious side effects. Also, people with the following health problems should avoid the consumption of oral vitamin E supplements:
- Allergic Reactions
Vitamin E is likely safe for most healthy people when applied to the skin. While rare, applying vitamin E to the skin has caused itching and swelling in some people.
- May Cause Heart Failure
Excess intake of vitamin E can increase the risk of heart failure in people suffering from diabetes (25). Furthermore, vitamin E can increase the risk of heart attack among people with a history of heart-related problems. However, limited data is available on this point.
- May Lead To Heart And Neck Cancer
People suffering from cancer of the neck or heart should avoid taking more than 400 IU vitamin E per day. Also, it is purported that taking vitamin E might increase the chance of developing prostate cancer (8).
- May Increase The Risk Of Bleeding
Since vitamin E is a blood thinner, it can increase the risk of bleeding and, hence, should be avoided before and after surgery.
- Drug Interactions
Vitamin E supplements have the potential to interact with several types of medications.It can inhibit platelet aggregation and antagonize vitamin K-dependent clotting factors. As a result, taking large doses of vitamin E with anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, such as warfarin, can increase the risk of bleeding. Furthermore, medications used for lowering cholesterol may interact with vitamin E (8).
Vitamin E is a dietary supplement that is necessary for maintaining overall good health. This fat-soluble essential nutrient is available in many foods naturally and has many health benefits. It may prevent heart disease, promote eye health, prevent signs of aging, and treat many skin disorders. However, excess intake of vitamin E may cause some adverse effects like an allergic reaction, heart failure, and increased risk of bleeding. Hence, limit the intake of vitamin E and consult your doctor in case of any side effects.
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- Gugliandolo, Agnese, Placido Bramanti, and Emanuela Mazzon. “Role of vitamin E in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: Evidence from animal models.”International journal of molecular sciences18.12 (2017): 2504.
- Zhang, Yufei, et al. “Vitamin E and risk of age-related cataract: a meta-analysis.”Public health nutrition18.15 (2015): 2804-2814.
- Christen, William G., et al. “Vitamin E and age-related macular degeneration in a randomized trial of women.”Ophthalmology117.6 (2010): 1163-1168.
- Archile-Contreras, Anangelina C., et al. “Vitamins E and C may increase collagen turnover by intramuscular fibroblasts. Potential for improved meat quality.”Journal of agricultural and food chemistry59.2 (2011): 608-614.
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Sethi, Anisha, et al. “Moisturizers: the slippery road.”Indian journal of dermatology61.3 (2016): 279.
- Baumann, Leslie S., and James Spencer Md. “The effects of topical vitamin E on the cosmetic appearance of scars.”Dermatologic Surgery25.4 (1999): 311-315.
- Russo, Irene, Francesca Caroppo, and Mauro Alaibac. “Vitamins and melanoma.”Cancers7.3 (2015): 1371-1387.
- Jaffary, Fariba, et al. “Effects of oral vitamin E on treatment of atopic dermatitis: A randomized controlled trial.”Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences20.11 (2015): 1053.
- Okebukola, Peter O et al. “Vitamin E supplementation in people with cystic fibrosis.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviewsvol. 3,3 CD009422. 6 Mar. 2017.
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