What Is Vitamin E and Why Is It Important?
Vitamin E is a wonder nutrient. Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant which prevents free radical damage and also naturally slows down ageing. But, the benefits do not end here! Here we discuss how vitamin E helps you and some vitamin E food sources that you must include in your diet!
So, what is vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin which is also known as α-tocopherol. It has several biological functions in our body and is extremely important for keeping us healthy.
Vitamin E helps you to survive, here’s how!
Some of the primary vitamin E functions in the body are:
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant and one of the body’s primary defences against free radical damage (highly reactive molecules that damages and ages our bodies).
- It protects our cells from oxidative damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are a class of charged particles that cause damage to your body at a molecular level.
- It also reduces inflammation and the risk of heart disease by protecting low-density lipoproteins (LDL) from oxidation. LDL helps in the transfer of cholesterol from the liver to the cells.
- Vitamin E also plays a role in enhancing hair growth and reducing skin problems by protecting the skin lipids against the damage caused by UV radiation.
Vitamin E deficiency due to poor dietary intake is rare. It occurs due to faulty fat absorption such as in cases of cystic fibrosis. Let’s have a look at some of the severe health disorders that can occur due to the deficiency of this vitamin!
Vitamin E deficiency can cause hemolytic anaemia mostly in premature infants and people suffering from cystic fibrosis. Hemolytic anaemia is a condition in which the red blood cells are broken down and removed from the bloodstream prematurely. The rate of this destruction is often higher than the rate of RBC production and is therefore detrimental for our health. Common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness etc. In severe cases, it can cause jaundice and heart disorders.
Vitamin E deficiency leads to impaired functions of the T and B lymphocytes which are an important part of our immune system. T and B lymphocytes attack foreign substances like viruses and bacteria. They also produce antibodies that protect against re-infection.
Vitamin E deficiency can cause neurological disorders like the sensory loss, loss of control of bodily movements, vision loss and also compromised cognitive function. Many studies have proved a direct correlation between the two. People suffering from fat malabsorption disorders and cystic fibrosis might be at a higher risk of suffering from neurological and other neuromuscular disorders.
Vitamin E Food sources
A diet high in vitamin E foods cannot have an optimal effect unless it is also rich in foods that provide vitamin C, vitamin B3, selenium and glutathione. Vitamin E can be readily destroyed by heat processing and oxidation. Hence fresh and lightly processed foods are the preferred sources. It is found in various foods and oils. Some vitamin E food sources are listed below.
- Green leafy vegetables
- Wheat germ oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Fortified cereals
- Sunflower oil
Hence, both excess and deficiencies of vitamin E like other fat-soluble vitamins can have adverse effects on our health. It is advisable to consult your dietician before you make any substantial changes to diet and food habits. However, a healthy balanced diet can be the most natural and effective way of including optimal levels of all necessary vitamins in your dietincluding vitamin E.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day for both men and women above 14 years of age. However, excess supplementation can increase the risk of bleeding and can also decrease thyroid hormone production. It also adversely influences your hair growth!