As we continue the series on Nutrients from A to Zinc, we now take a look at vitamin E and all its intricacies. Vitamin E may be one of the most complex of the fat soluble vitamins, as eight naturally occurring forms can be found, including four different tocopherols and four similar tocotrienols, each with alpha, beta, gamma and delta types. The most abundant, active and known form is alpha tocopherol, although each compound has its own unique strengths, biological activity and function.
Vitamin E protects vitamin A, carotene, and vitamin C in foods from oxidative destruction. Its action is enhanced when it is taken with selenium, zinc and glutathione. During digestion, vitamin E is absorbed from the intestines along with fat and bile salts, first into the lymph and then into the blood, which carries it to the liver to be used or stored. Some vitamin E is stored in the fatty tissues and to a lesser degree in the heart, muscles, testes, uterus, adrenal and pituitary glands.
The primary function of vitamin E is as an antioxidant. It serves to scavenge free radicals, thereby preventing the oxidation of unsaturated fats, cell membranes, DNA, and active enzyme sites. Other functions of vitamin E are to modulate the activity of immune and inflammatory cells (prostaglandins) and to inhibit platelet aggregation, therefore enhancing normal blood flow.
Overall, tocotrienols are 40 to 60 times more potent antioxidants than tocopherols. Gamma tocopherol may be more effective than the alpha form as an antioxidant, particularly in bone, joint, muscle and brain health.
Most vitamin E supplements available today consist of only d-alpha tocopherol or the “dl” tocopheryls that are synthetically made. We know that nature produces these various tocopherols and tocotrienols together because of their synergism. Using a mixed form of vitamin E is the best option and provides optimal antioxidant support. Before taking any supplement, please consult with your healthcare practitioner.
Vitamin E is found in butter, egg yolks, milk fat, liver and fresh wheat germ. However, some of the best sources are vegetable and seed or nut oils.
Photo from here, with thanks.