Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin which has a number of important functions in the body. It was discovered in 1922 by two University of California researchers, Herbert Evans and Catherine Bishop, when they were doing an experiment involving rats on a semi-purified diet. The rats grew well but when the females became pregnant their pups would die in the womb. However, when their diet was supplemented with lettuce and then wheat germ, the female rats would give birth to healthy pups, leading Evans and Bishop to conclude that their diet was missing a “Factor X”. This “Factor X” was later renamed vitamin E in 1924 by Dr Bennet Sure of the University of Arkansas.
The main benefit of vitamin E is that it is an antioxidant which means it protects the body from the damage caused by using oxygen. Every time your body uses oxygen, the cells produce free radicals as a by-product. These free radicals can then cause damage to the body. However, antioxidants prevent and repair the damage caused by free radicals meaning that vitamin E can provide significant protection to all your body’s cells. Apart from this, vitamin E provides further antioxidant benefits which include:
– Effective preservation of foods.
– Prevention of diseases such as cancer and diabetes (according to How Stuff Works).
– Promotion of a healthy nervous system.
– Protection against heart disease.
– Protection for the eyes.
– Protection of oxygen sensitive compounds such as polyunsaturated fats and vitamin A.
Men are advised to consume 4mg of vitamin E daily whilst women are advised to consume 3mg. Like with many vitamins, adequate amounts of vitamin E can be obtained from your diet with oils and margarine from corn, wheat germ and nuts all being good sources. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains also contain vitamin E but are not a rich source.
It is important that you get enough vitamin E in order to fully protect your body against the damage caused by oxygen. Failure to do so may lead to age spots (a brown pigmentation of the skin) and hemolytic anemia (a condition where the blood cells become so delicate that they rupture). The effects of getting too much vitamin E have not been documented at the time of writing but it is still a good idea to stick to the recommendations above. Since vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin it is stored in the liver and fatty tissues and there is every chance that future research may reveal overdosing makes these stores toxic. Therefore, my opinion is that you should be cautious when taking high levels of this vitamin. Try and get the majority of your vitamin E from natural foods and if you decide to supplement only do so up to the recommended levels.
Vitamin E has been touted as something of a miracle vitamin in recent years. Indeed, it can do a lot of good for your body. However, despite the multiple health claims I still think you should stick to the recommended levels, at least until more research is done into the impact of high doses. Sticking to these levels will be just as beneficial for your body and its cells and possibly help you avoid future dangers associated with overdosing.
Toxicity of Vitamins Information (Medical News Today)
The Vitamin E Factor – Summary and Review (Nutrition 4 Health)
Vitamin E Information (Food Standards Agency)
Vitamin E Information (How Stuff Works)
Vitamin E Information (Life Clinic)
Vitamin E Information (Wikipedia)