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What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in eight different forms. Each form has its own biological activity, the measure of potency, and functional use in the body.

The most active form of Vitamin E in humans is Alpha-tocophero. Alpha-tocophero is a powerful biological antioxidant. An antioxidants helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of the body’s metabolism that may harm you. Free radicals can cause cell damage that may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

What else does vitamin E do?

Vitamin E does a lot of things. It is believed that vitamin E may also prevent blood cells from sticking to each other and to the blood vessels they travel. This will help promote clear and flexible blood vessels and lower blood pressure.

What foods are good sources of vitamin E?

Avocados, olive oil, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts), seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables are the best sources of vitamin E. Fortified cereals are also an important source of vitamin E for children in the United States. Vitamin E is also present in herbs (alfalfa, dandelion, flaxseed, nettle, raspberry leaf, and rose hips). Foods with high amounts of vitamin E are: brown rice, eggs, organ meats, soybeans, sweet potatoes, watercress and wheat germ.

How to prepare foods to retain vitamin E

Vitamin E can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking, or storage. Two easy ways to retain vitamin E are:

  1. Use whole-grain flours.
  2. Store foods in airtight containers and avoid exposing them to light.

Vitamin E deficiency

It is estimated that only 8% of men and 3% of women have sufficient amounts of vitamin E in their diets. Insufficient amounts of vitamin E intake causes damage to red blood cells and destruction to nerves. Signs of deficiency include infertility, menstrual problems, neuromusculalr impairment, miscarriage, and shortened red blood cell life span.

Extreme vitamin E deficiency can occur but it is rare in humans. It often occurs in persons who cannot absorb dietary fat, in premature babies, very low birth weight infants, and in individuals with rare disorders of fat metabolism. One of the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency is neurological problems due to poor nerve conduction.

Are you at risk for vitamin E deficiency?

Individuals who have reduced ability to absorb dietary fat (fat malabsorption) may need extra vitamin D because it is a fat soluble vitamin (it dissolves in fat). Crohn’s Disease, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic enzyme deficiency and liver disease may reduce a person’s ability to absorb dietary fat. Some of the common symptoms of fat malabsorption are diarrhea and greasy stools.

Zinc and vitamin E

The human body needs adequate amounts of zinc to maintain the proper levels of vitamin E in the blood. Zinc is found in egg yolks, fish, kelp, lamb, legumes, liver, meats, mushrooms, oysters, and whole grains. Herbs that contain zinc include alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, fennel seed, nettle, parsley, sage, skullcap, and yams.