The Importance of Being Holist: Vitamin E

The Importance of Being Holist: Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant, so has received much recent focus in terms of its value in preventing cancer.  Like other anti-oxidants, this vitamin has defensive actions against free radicals (damaging to healthy cells).  Among healthcare motivational speakers, anti-oxidants are all the rage.  But, the real benefits of Vitamin E may have more to do with its interaction with other nutrients than provided on its own basis.


Benefits of Anti-Oxidants


The physiological function of anti-oxidants is to protect cells against free radicals—which are the byproducts of converting food into energy.  The build-up of free radicals in the body is considered a factor promoting cell evolution into cancerous cells.  According to the website of the Harvard School of Public Health, free radicals can damage instructions encoded in DNA. 

 Some researchers have suggested persons who had a low nutritional intake of anti-oxidants were at higher risk for developing chronic diseases (such as cancer) than their counterparts who ate foods rich in anti-oxidants.  In popular culture, the findings of these medical researchers have been interpreted to mean that anti-oxidants are protective against developing cancer.  However, there is no proof substantiating this claim.


Function of Vitamin E

 Vitamin E is fat-soluble, and aids the body in making red blood cells and absorbing Vitamin K.  The anti-oxidant properties of Vitamin E promote its anti-inflammatory activity.  According to the National Institutes of Health, this vitamin plays a role in both the immune system, and various metabolic processes.  For people with GI conditions inhibiting fat absorption (such as ulcerative colitis), Vitamin E administration promoted improvement in inflammatory symptoms.

While common among children in impoverished nations, Vitamin E deficiency is uncommon in the United States.  However, it does occur in some people with Crohn’s Disease and other disorders involving an inability to absorb fats.  Vitamin E deficiency symptoms include muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass, and vision problems (according to the website of the University of Maryland Medical Center).


Vitamin E and Skin Integrity

Many hand lotions are marketed in their packaging as containing Vitamin E.  Phytonutrients are believed to be beneficial to skin health.  Vitamin E (as a phytonutrient) has been likewise promoted as preventing skin cancer.  Evans and colleagues in Nutrients suggested that Vitamin E was beneficial in maintaining overall skin health, but found no evidence that it protected against skin cancer.


Food Sources of Vitamin E

Nuts, seeds, vegetables oils, and fortified cereals are excellent sources of Vitamin E.  The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements places wheat germ oil at the top of its list.  It also presents the recommended daily allowance for persons over 14 years of age as 15 mg.


Problems Associated with Vitamin E

 Too much Vitamin E may interfere with blood thinning medication.  Research has also suggested that extremely high doses in supplements can cause blood coagulation and platelet aggregation.  For this reason, taking a high dose of Vitamin E is contraindicated unless recommended (and supervised) by a physician.

There are many untrained health advocates that promote taking Vitamin E supplements.  Most health providers recommend a daily vitamin with minerals.  However, there is no need to waste money on extra vitamins that you do not need.



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