Notes about Vitamin E
Following the popularity of the IvyRose article about glucosamine
(19 April 2007), we are pleased to include similar information about Vitamin
What is Vitamin E ?
Chemically, Vitamin E is an organic molecular compound whose formula is
It has a
molecular mass of 430.69 g/mol.
Vitamin E is also known by other names, including Tocopherol and,
more technically: (2R)-2,5,7,8-Tetramethyl-2-[(4R,8R)-4,8,12
(While it is not necessary
to understand these formulae, they may be of interest to students of 'A'-Level
Chemistry and undergraduates in Food Science and BioChemistry.)
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin (that is, it is stored in body fat rather
than in the water content of the body). Vitamin E is not soluble in water.
It is stable to heat, but is oxidised by air.
Vitamin E occurs in nature as tocopherols and tocotrienols. There are 4 tocopherols
and 4 tocotrienols (called alpha, beta, gamma and delta). Therefore Vitamin
E exists in eight different forms (that is, as eight different "isomers", or
arrangements of the atoms) altogether.
Each form has its own biological activity.
The most active form of vitamin
humans is Alpha-tocopherol (a-tocopherol).
Vitamin E is a powerful biological antioxidant. (Antioxidants are molecules
that reduce the rate of oxidation of other chemicals, or prevent the oxidation
of the other chemicals altogether. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can
involve the production of free radicals - which
can form dangerous chain reactions. Antioxidants can terminate these chain
reactions by removing radical intermediates and inhibiting other oxidation
reactions by being oxidized themselves. The bio-chemistry may sound complicated
but the important conclusion is that antioxidants perform an important function
within the body!)
Antioxidants such as vitamin E protect cells against the effects
of free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of energy metabolism.
Free radicals can damage cells and it has even been suggested that they may
contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Studies
are in progress
vitamin E, through
its ability to limit production of free radicals, might help to prevent or
delay the development of those chronic diseases. Vitamin E is also believed
with immune function, in DNA repair, and with other
Where does Vitamin E come from ?
Vitamin E occurs naturally in cereals, vegetable
oils, raw seeds, nuts and soyabeans. Fortified breakfast cereals are also
a key source of vitamin E in the USA.
When used as a food additive, Vitamin
E / Tocopherol is labeled with the following E numbers, the specific number
used depending on which form (or "isomer")
of vitamin E has been used:
- E307 in the case of alpha-tocopherol,
- E308 in the case of gamma-tocopherol, and
- E309 in the case of delta-tocopherol.
Vitamin E can be lost from foods during cooking, processing, or storage. Using
whole-grain flours, storing foods such as grains in airtight containers, and
avoiding exposing them to light, helps to
retain the vitamin E within foods in good condition.
What does Vitamin E do for the body ?
As explained above, Vitamin E is a powerful biological antioxidant.
In more general terms, it is believed to:
- Help maintain the health of blood vessels,
especially arterial muscle tone.
- Help maintain skin elasticity.
- Help reduce tissue injury
from ischaemia (ie lack of oxygen).
- Support the body's immune system
- due to its powerful antioxidant properties.
promote a healthy reproductive system, and
- Assist in the assimilation of
Why might you choose to take extra Vitamin E ?
Additional vitamin E may be appropriate to support any of the functions
listed above. Generally, it is taken:
- to promote healing,
- to help to support a busy and hectic lifestyle,
- to help to support the immune system,
- to help to support vascular health (i.e. that of the blood
(Note: According to the UK Food Standards Agency publication "Manual
of Nutrition",1995: "deficiency [of vitamin E] is never seen except in
people." The two groups identified are premature infants and
people who are unable to absorb or utilize vitamin E. The same publication
also advises that "Very high intakes [of vitamin E] do not appear
to be toxic".)
For which medical conditions might Vitamin E be
Research about the effect of vitamin E has been carried out concerning at
least the conditions mentioned below.
- During pregnancy
- Heart disease
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
It is best to read as much as possible about the actual studies/reports
before drawing conclusions from these or other studies. This is because many
variables may be involved. Scientists usually consider the effect of the
relative to the "effect" of a placebo (such as a sugar pill, for
example). The difference in outcome between these two possibilities may
vary according to other factors, e.g. the dosage used, and the age, sex,
and other medical conditions of people
participating in the study. Further information is available online,
and also from all good university libraries - where it is possible to read
studies published in medical and other journals.
Where can I buy Vitamin E ?
Vitamin E is generally available from healthfood
shops in the form of tablets that may be taken as food/dietary supplements.
Food/dietary supplements are not available for sale from www.ivyrose.co.uk
but we can tell you about other online shops that do sell these - see for
example the link to the Natures Own website at the top of this page [. ]
Are there any safety concerns about the use of Vitamin E ?
It is always a good idea to be concerned about the safety,
possible side-effects, and dosage of food supplements, any form of medicine
or treatment, and even
about appropriate/safe quantities of foods and beverages.
In the case of Vitamin E, some sources offer warnings while others do not.
In late 2004 there was an American
study that gave rise to concern about very high does of vitamin E, though
the study's authors acknowledged that due to most participants in the trial
being aged 60 years or above and having conditions such
their findings might not apply to young healthy adults. More recently the
Canadian Government's website "Health
Canada" cautions against excessive dosage of vitamin E, also mentioning
recent studies that may be cause for concern but are not in themselves firm
that excessive quantities of vitamin E have harmed patients. Their conclusion
is that more research is needed.
Briefly, the concerns expressed in recent
years seem to relate to very
of vitamin E (400 IU/day or greater). It is thought that this may be associated
with increased risk of bleeding - particularly in patients
or aspirin; or in patients with vitamin K deficiency. If you are concerned
about the type or quantities of supplements you are taking it is adviseable
to consult an appropriately qualified health
** Note: This article is for general interest/information. It is not medical
Source: IvyRose Article.
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