Nutritional Supplements: The Amazing Benefits of Vitamin E
The real benefits of Vitamin E may surprise you. First of all, what is Vitamin E? Vitamin E is not one nutrient but actually a group of eight nutrients known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each one of these groups is further broken down into alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
Alpha-tocopherol is the most active and common form. This is the form most often found in vitamin supplements. This is also the only form of Vitamin E given an RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). Folks who eat lots of fruits and vegetables and not much fat in their diet, probably don't get their RDA of alpha-tocopherol. Although alpha-tocopherol is the only Vitamin E component given an RDA, Gamma tocopherol is an important component as well.
Vitamin E is an oil soluble vitamin and is stored by your body.
Benefits of Vitamin E and What It Does For You
What does Vitamin E do? Vitamin E acts as what's called an antioxidant. If you've read the section of my site on Health Supplements, you've no doubt read about what an antioxidant does. If not we can review quickly.
The cells of your body are under a lot of stress... oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when highly unstable molecules called free radicals roam freely throughout your body. Free radicals are a by-product of not only the normal metabolic processes of your cells but also your environment. Things such as air pollution, sun exposure, ozone, nitrous oxide (from auto exhaust), cigarette smoke, alcohol consumption and so on.
Free radicals damage cell membranes and can result in changes to your cells that cause chronic diseases down the road. When your cells are being damaged by these free radicals, we say your cells are experiencing oxidative stress... and one of the benefits of Vitamin E is that it is an antioxidant and can significantly neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidative stress.
Benefits of Vitamin E and Heart Disease
Does Vitamin E aid in the prevention of heart disease? Well, the jury's still out on this one. Theoretically, the benefits of Vitamin E and its ability to significantly reduce the progression of atherosclerotic plaque (buildup on the inside of your artery walls), says yes, without a doubt.
An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association says so also. Using angiography, a correlation was found between taking Vitamin E supplements and a reduction in coronary artery atherosclerosis. Remember the above benefits of Vitamin E and how Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant? Well this is the same mechanism.
As Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., F.A.C.N. of Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts states "... surveys of over 200,000 people in different communities around the world have provided compelling evidence that diets high in vitamin E and/or use of vitamin E supplements reduce the risk of heart disease."
Dr. Blumberg stresses the importance of making the distinction between what he calls primary and secondary prevention. Primary prevention focuses on groups of healthy people and testing for new heart disease against different levels of Vitamin E intake over many years. Secondary prevention is taking groups of folks with existing heart disease and testing for a short duration using Vitamin E supplements along with placebos.
It is felt that the results of some secondary trials (the ones that claim no beneficial relationship between Vitamin E and heart disease) may be skewed by other factors in these heart patients such as smoking and diabetes. Also the drugs that these folks are taking along with the Vitamin E supplements could also affect the outcome of the research.
Concerning the benefits of Vitamin E, Dr. Blumberg goes on to state, "In thinking about the value of vitamin E supplementation, particularly in primary prevention, it is important to appreciate not only its potential benefit in heart disease but also in a variety of other chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress, including age-related macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, cataract, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis."
Two other studies were reported on in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These two studies followed thousands of women and men. The researchers found a significant reduction in heart disease of the folks taking Vitamin E supplements.
Benefits of Vitamin E and Alzheimer's
Can Vitamin E help cut your risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia? New studies seem to suggest so. A recent report found in the Archives of Neurology showed that vitamin E taken together with Vitamin C had significant benefits.
The study's author, Peter Zandi PhD with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated, "These results are extremely exciting. Our findings suggest that vitamins E and C may offer protection against Alzheimer's disease when taken together in the higher doses available from individual supplements."
Another study also in the Archives of Neurology found that Vitamin E intake may slow the progression of cognitive decline as we grow older.
How does Vitamin E do this? Well, remember some of the benefits of Vitamin E cited above and how Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant? It is widely accepted that oxidative stress plays a role in the bringing about Alzheimer's. And by its antioxidant properties, Vitamin E is able to reduce this oxidative stress to the cells of your brain.
More Benefits of Vitamin E
Because of Vitamin E's antioxidant properties, it has been shown effective in helping treat osteoarthritis. Vitamin E has also shown to be helpful in preventing the formation of cataracts in your eyes. And it might also help in protecting your eyes against ARMD (age related macular degeneration) as you get older. ARMD is the major cause of blindness in the U.S.
In folks with diabetes, Vitamin E and other antioxidants have been effective in controlling blood sugar levels. There has also been found to be a relationship between low levels of Vitamin E and an increased risk of getting diabetes.
Vitamin E has also been found to reduce hot flashes for women going through menopause. And for male smokers, it has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Is Vitamin E Safe
A recent article appearing in the Council for Responsible Nutrition stated that Vitamin E is safe for folks in the general population at doses up to 1600 IU daily. With most of the daily doses you'll find out there being in the 200 - 400 IU range there should be no concern.
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