E: The Controversial Vitamin
as a necessary nutrient without which we cannot live, hailed as an
aid to healing and as a supreme antioxidant helpful in holding off
the effects of aging, Vitamin E is now recognized as a substance that
we must be careful with. While it's a good thing to ensure you're
getting enough - preferably by eating a healthy diet - too much
Vitamin E supplementation has been linked to an actual increase
in oxidation damage and an acceleration of the signs of aging and
other diseases. So it pays to know what you're doing when your diet
is in question - your health, your quality of life, and length of
life are all at stake.
long after Vitamin E was discovered in 1922, researchers determined
that it had beneficial effects on premature infants who had failed to
grow, and it also was found that a deficiency of Vitamin E in infants
was a cause of a certain type of anemia, now eradicated.
of causes of the aging of our bodies is oxidation, which causes cell
damage, and one of the major causes of oxidation are "free
radicals" and the cell-destroying chain reactions they cause -
and Vitamin E in small quantities is a very good antioxidant.
Getting enough of it has been shown to slow down the oxidation and
cell damage that we perceive as aging. In fact, it's been called
the body's main defender against oxidation.
E has also been shown to especially retard LDL cholesterol oxidation
and fight plaque formation in the arteries - one of the main causes
of cardiovascular disease. In fact, the New England Journal of
Medicine published a study which found there was a significant
lowering, up to 80 per cent., of heart disease risk among those with
sufficient intake of Vitamin E.
also been found that getting enough of this nutrient in your diet can
help prevent breast and prostate cancer, and can even slow down
cognitive decline as we age.
also important to distinguish between the natural and synthetic forms
of Vitamin E. There are eight different varieties of Vitamin E on the
market, but to tell whether your multivitamin or supplement is
natural or synthetic, just look at the prefix. If it's "d-"
then it's a natural compound - if it's "dl-" then it is
synthetic. Some doctors say that the natural form is far more
taking Vitamin E supplements can be risky if you go too far. Getting
too much Vitamin E is called "hypervitaminosis E" and it can lead
to severe bleeding problems, as the nutrient can act as an
anticoagulant in sufficient quantities - especially if combined
with aspirin or other blood-thinning drugs. Taking too much Vitamin E
can also counteract the effects of Vitamin K (which itself is
important for artery and bone health, among other things), leading to
a deficiency of that essential nutrient. Most authorities suggest
that you ingest no more than 1,500 mg (or 1,000 IU) of Vitamin E per
day to avoid these problems.
study even found that even somewhat
high doses of Vitamin E can lead to increased lung cancer risk: those
who consumed 400 mg of Vitamin E daily had a 28% higher risk for the
disease, and the increase was even greater for those who smoked.
about applying Vitamin E directly to scars or cuts? One study showed
that the belief that the nutrient promotes healing is really a myth:
In 90 per cent. of cases, topical application of Vitamin E had no
effect or made the scar worse, and 33 per cent. of those who did so
developed contact dermatitis.
can you balance getting the needed quantity of Vitamin E every day
with the risks associated with getting too much? The best way is to
get your supply of this nutrient from healthy foods instead of
supplement pills. This is Nature's way, and it's also the way
that lets your body do the balancing itself, which entails basically
no risk: Our bodies have evolved to take in just the right amount of
Vitamin E from the foods we eat, as opposed to a sudden surge from a
caplet or pill.
foods that are rich in Vitamin E include: leafy green vegetables,
nuts, rice bran, barley, and palm oils. Organic, locally-grown
produce is likely to have the best integrity of the nutrient - and
other nutrients that operate in synergy with it, making the total
effect much greater - than others. And avoid processed junk foods
at all costs: These not only contain questionable substances, but
their empty calories crowd out good food from your diet - while
causing unwanted weight gain and well-known (and some probably
unknown) side effects, none of them good.
Vitamin E is an important and necessary part of your diet. It has
marvelous and beneficial effects. But take too much, and you can be
taking some real risks. The small quantity of Vitamin E you get from
a quality multivitamin and from a healthy diet should be sufficient
for most people. Add extra supplements only with careful planning and
understanding of their effects.
with Vitamin E - and every single thing you put into your body -
you're in charge, your present life and your future life are on the
line - and it's a big responsibility. If you take the time and
take charge of your own nutrition, you'll be glad you did, and so
will your loved ones!
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Reference Intakes: Applications in Dietary Assessment.
Washington, DC; National Academy Press. p. 289
Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine,
1 March, 2008; 177(5): 524-30
England Journal of Medicine,
"Vitamin E Consumption and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in
Men," www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199305203282004 accessed
April 20, 2014
"Guide to Treating Acne Scars and Skin Damage,"
, accessed April 19, 2014
"Vitamin E Linked to Lung Cancer,"
, accessed April 19, 2014