Naturally occurring vitamin E exists in eight chemical forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol) that have varying levels of biological activity.
Alpha- (or α-) tocopherol is the only form that is recognized to meet human requirements. Alpha-tocopherol (body’s main form of vitamin E) functions as an antioxidant, regulates cell signaling, influences immune function and inhibits coagulation.
Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) is a fat soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant that is believed to be important in protecting cells from oxidative stress, regulating immune function, maintaining endothelial cell integrity and balancing normal coagulation.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that has antioxidant properties. Vitamin E functions as a chain-breaking antioxidant that prevents the propagation of lipid per-oxidation.
Alpha-tocopherol and CoQ10 are the primary fat-soluble antioxidants in cell membranes and lipoproteins. Vitamin E protects polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) within membrane phospholipids and in plasma lipoproteins.
Vitamin E is transported in plasma in lipoproteins and serves as the most important membrane protective antioxidant and free radical scavenger in the body.
Serum concentrations of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) depend on the liver, which takes up the nutrient after the various forms are absorbed from the small intestine.
- Deficiency may occur with malabsorption, cholestyramine, colestipol, isoniazid, orlistat, olestra and certain anti-convulsants (e.g., phenobarbital, phenytoin).
- In general, lipid peroxidation markers are elevated during vitamin E depletion and their levels can be normalized upon vitamin E repletion. However, these markers are not necessarily specific to vitamin E, since changes in intake of other antioxidants can also change the levels of these markers.
- Food sources include oils (olive, soy, corn, canola, safflower, sunflower), nuts, seeds, spinach, carrots, avocado, dark leafy greens and wheat germ.
Symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency include:
- Muscle weakness
- Slow reflexes
- Difficulty or unsteady walking
- Vision problems
Vitamin E deficiency is very rare in healthy people. Most of the time, vitamin E deficiency is caused by a condition where nutrients are not properly digested or absorbed. These include Crohn’s disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and some rare genetic disorders. Vitamin E deficiency may also be caused by a very low-fat diet.
Too much Vitamin E is rare. It can be caused by taking too many vitamins.
If not treated, excess vitamin E can lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of stroke.
Symptoms of vitamin E excess include:
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