The family of Vitamin E is divided into two components, the tocopherols and the tocotrienols, each with four different forms: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Alpha tocopherol is the only form that is active in meeting the requirements of the human body.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that functions primarily as an antioxidant, serving as the body’s main defender against oxidative damage or from free radicals. Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties protect the cells’ membranes, lipids and other compounds from being oxidized.
The anti-oxidizing effects of Vitamin E also keep the lungs from exposure to high concentrations of oxygen by working together with other antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B3 to keep oxygen molecules from being reactive that can result in destruction of cell structures.
Other benefits offered by Vitamin E to the body are development of normal nerves, support and protection of healthy skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, protection of white blood cells to promote immunity from diseases, and defense against heart disease.
Oxidative damage causes deficiency of Vitamin E in humans. In premature infants, deficiency of this vitamin leads to a condition called erythrocyte hemolysis. This condition causes the infant’s red blood cells to rupture, resulting in anemia later on. In adults, malabsorption of fats caused by diseases such as celiac and gallbladder disease can be a factor in creating vitamin E deficiency. Symptoms of deficiency usually include loss of muscle coordination, impaired movement, speech and vision.
Individuals who are affected with a Vitamin E deficiency are most likely on a low fat diet for a long period of time. Also, consumption of processed foods may increase the risk for Vitamin E deficiency. It is important to remember to maintain the daily intake recommendation for vitamins to avoid deficiencies.
The recommended intake for Vitamin E is 15 milligrams for adults and 5 milligrams for children. Vitamin E is widespread in food sources and excellent sources are mustard greens, safflower oil, canola oil, wheat germ, mayonnaise, sunflower seeds, chard and turnip greens. Excessive intake of Vitamin E may cause symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, blurring of vision, and uncontrollable bleeding.
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