Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble compounds from oxidative damage by free radicals. For example, the oxidative damage to LDL-cholesterol appears to lead to the deposition of cholesterol in the arterial wall leading to atherosclerotic disease. In the past few years many other functions of vitamin E have been clarified. Alphatocopherol has direct effect on the control of inflammation, red and white blood cell production, connective tissue growth and genetic control of cell division. Vitamin E acts to reduce free radical damage by converting arachidonic acid is converted to pro-inflammatory (12-HPETE) derivatives. In deficiencies of vitamin E, arachidonic acid is converted to proinflammatory leukotrienes and cytokines. In neutralizing free radicals, vitamin E is oxidized to a free radical. Conversion back to the reduced form occurs by reaction with vitamin C (ascorbate).
Deficiency Symptoms: The principle use of vitamin E is an antioxidant in the protection against heart disease, cancer, stroke and neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s). In addition, alpha-tocopherol supplementation is useful in treating other cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, fibrocystic breast disease, menopause symptoms and tardive dyskinesia. It may also have applications in Parkinson’s Disease and arthritis. Vitamin E is important to immune function, protecting thymic function and white blood cells from oxidative stress. Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include nerve damage, muscle weakness, poor coordination, involuntary eye movements, red blood cell fragility, anemia and retrolental fibroplasia (eye disease).
Repletion Information: Vitamin E is available in many different formulations, either natural or synthetic. Natural forms of vitamin E are designated d-, as in d-a-tocopherol. Synthetic forms are designated as dl-. The biologically active form of the vitamin is the d- form and it is recommended for supplementation over the dl- (synthetic) forms.
Beta-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol and the alpha- and deltatocoretinols have less than 50% of the biological activity than d-a-tocopherol.
The RDA for vitamin E (d-a-tocopherol) is set at 15 I.U. per day.
The amount of vitamin E required is dependent upon the amount of polyunsaturated fat in the diet. The more polyunsaturated fat in the diet, the greater the risk for oxidative damage, and the vitamin E requirement is increased. Most studies have utilized doses between 200-400 I.U. per day. Some studies report effective use of vitamin E at doses up to 3000 I.U. per day without observed side effects over a two-year period.
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