Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin. It is very useful for overall health of the body. It was discovered in 1922. But its components and multiple advantages were discovered much later on. It is found abundantly in natural products, i.e. fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Free oxygen radicals which are liberated in the body in response to environmental toxins and pollutants tend to cause damage to the cells and tissues of body. Vitamin E prevents this action, thus, prevents degeneration of cells and tissues of the body.
The net result is prevention of age-related changes in the body. Wrinkling of the skin is prevented by Vitamin E. It is said to keep the skin smooth and supple. Therefore, many anti-wrinkling creams and lotions contain Vitamin E as one of the ingredients. Due to its antioxidant properties, it has a protective effect on the heart. Thus, it reduces chances of heart disease. It is also useful in prevention of chronic diseases like arthritis and cancers and if they occur, it retards their progression. Most of the cancers occur due to chronic damage to cells of any part of the body. By preventing this damage, Vitamin E prevents development of cancers in the body. It is particularly useful in preventing lung and breast cancers.
It also helps in improving functions of the brain. Those suffering from nocturnal cramps of legs get relief after using Vitamin E. It protects fat soluble components of the body like Vitamin A, cholesterol and PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) from damage. It is also useful for fertility and reproduction, as it enhances fertility.
Vitamin E is abundantly present in natural products like sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils, nuts, carrots, spinach and other green vegetables, sweet potatoes, and etcetera. Apart from this, whole grains and sprouted grains are also rich sources of Vitamin E. Liver and egg yolk are animal products that contain Vitamin E in good amount.
Chronic deficiency of Vitamin E develops in a person whose diet lacks natural Vitamin E containing vegetable products. People suffering from chronic loss of appetite and malabsorption due to any chronic disease are also prone to develop Vitamin E deficiency.
Vitamin E deficiency can manifest as anaemia, more so in children. One can suffer from dysfunction of the spinal cord and retina. Due to this, a person can have difficulty in walking, maintaining balance of the body and impairment of speech and vision. Fertility can be impaired. Risk of developing cancers is increased in case of deficiency of Vitamin E.
The best way to prevent Vitamin E deficiency is to take a diet full of natural products. Children should be encouraged to take fresh green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, cereals fortified with Vitamin E so that they have adequate Vitamin E in their bodies keeping them healthy.
Whenever needed, supplements of Vitamin E are available to replenish the deficiency. A word of caution is necessary here. Though it is a very useful substance for the body, over dosage or toxicity of Vitamin E is equally harmful. Taking vitamin supplements routinely is a usual trend in developed countries. By doing so, people expose themselves to risk of toxicity of overdose of vitamins.
Overdose of Vitamin E leads to increased risk of bleeding from the body, more so if somebody is taking anti-clotting drugs like warfarin. Sometimes risk of cancers is increased due to toxicity of Vitamin E. Therefore, it is prudent to avoid deficiency of Vitamin E as well as toxicity.
Dr Rachna Pande,
Specialist, internal medicine