Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in eight different forms - four tocopherols, alpha, beta, gamma and delta, and four tocotrienols (also alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Each form has its own biological activity, the measure of potency or functional use in the body. Alpha Tocopherol is the only form of vitamin E that is actively maintained in the human body and is therefore, the form of vitamin E found in the largest quantities in the blood and tissue.
Because Alpha Tocopherol is the form of vitamin E that appears to have the greatest nutritional significance, therefore it is the element which people use to identify vitamin E. Alpha-tocopherol is a powerful biological antioxidant. Antioxidants such as vitamin E act to protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of the body's metabolism. Free radicals can cause cell damage that may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Studies are underway to determine whether vitamin E might help prevent or delay the development of those chronic diseases.
Health Benefit of Vitamin E
The main function of vitamin E in humans appears to be that of an antioxidant. Free radicals are formed primarily in the body during normal metabolism and also upon exposure to environmental factors such as cigarette smoke or pollutants. Fats, which are an integral part of all cell membranes, are vulnerable to destruction through oxidation by free radicals.
The fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E a-tocopherol, is uniquely suited to intercepting free radicals and preventing a chain reaction of lipid destruction. Aside from maintaining the integrity of cell membranes throughout the body, a-tocopherol also protects the fats in low density lipoproteins (LDLs) from oxidation. Lipoproteins are particles composed of lipids and proteins, which are able to transport fats through the blood stream.
LDL transport cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body. Oxidized LDLs have been implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases (See Disease Prevention). When a molecule of a-tocopherol neutralizes a free radical, it is altered in such a way that its antioxidant capacity is lost. However, other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, are capable of regenerating the antioxidant capacity of a-tocopherol.
Several other functions of vitamin E a-tocopherol have been identified, which likely are not related to its antioxidant capacity. Vitamin E is known to inhibit the activity of protein kinase C, an important cell signaling molecule, as well as to affect the expression and activity of immune and inflammatory cells. Additionally, a-tocopherol has been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation and to enhance vasodilation.
Food With Vitamin E, Vitamin E Source, and Vitamin E Deficiency
Food high in vitamin E include the following categories:
Almonds, Avocados, Brazil Nuts, Corn, Fortified Cereals, Hazelnuts, Safflower Nuts, Soybean Oil, Spinach, Sunflower Seeds and Walnuts.
Because vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, therefore, people who can not absorb dietary fat are always deficient in vitamin E. Individuals who cannot absorb fat may require a vitamin E supplement because some dietary fat is needed for the absorption of vitamin E from the gastrointestinal tract. Anyone diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, individuals who have had part or all of their stomach removed, and individuals with malabsorptive problems such as Crohn’s disease may not absorb fat and should consider using some vitamin E supplements.
Aside from people with low fat absorbtion ability, the following types of people should also consider getting some extra vitamin E to avoid vitamin E deficiency:
People more than 55 years of age
Very low birth weight infants
Those who have a chronic wasting illness
Those who abuse alcohol or other drugs
People with inadequate caloric or nutritional dietary intake or increased nutritional requirements
Those with liver, gallbladder or pancreatic disease\