Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Vitamin E, discovered in 1922, is a group of related compounds known as tocopherols. It is a fat-soluble anti-oxidant essential for normal blood coagulation and for the health of the cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems. It is also involved in the regulation of enzyme activity and in the boy’s utilisation of selenium and Vitamin K.
Because it is fat-soluble Vitamin E is incorporated within individual cell membranes which are composed of lipids, thereby protecting them from oxidative damage. It helps maintain the health of the skin and eyes and strengthens the immune system. Vitamin E status may have a possible impact on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia as it appears to slow functional decline. It may help delay or prevent cataracts. It also offers protection against the toxins produced by cigarette smoking and other environmental pollutants.
Vitamin E can be found mainly in nuts, seeds, wholegrains and unrefined vegetable oils, while lesser amounts can be obtained from eggs, dairy products and fish. A varied and balanced diet should ensure an adequate intake. Any excess is stored by the body in the liver and in fat. It can be destroyed by high temperatures, frying, extreme cold, excessive intake of processed fats and oils, the contraceptive pill, and exposure to the air.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare, but signs include muscle weakness, leg cramps, peripheral neuropathy, slow wound healing, bruising, and menstrual and fertility problems. Those at risk include people suffering from disorders preventing adequate fat absorption and those following low fat or fat-free diets.
Consumption of alpha-tocopherol supplements may lead to interactions with drugs such as aspirin and warfarin, increasing their anti-blood clotting action. It may also reduce the blood concentration of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen and the immune-suppressant cyclosporine A. Large doses of supplements may interfere with the absorption of Vitamin A.
The European Food Safety Authority recommends an upper limit of 300mg alpha-tocopherol per day. Taking 540mg or less a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
NB: Always consult a health professional before taking supplements