To start off with this post, I want to mention the benefits of vitamin E for your body, some good health foods to get the vitamin E you need and finally why you probably want to AVOID vitamin E supplements!
What does vitamin E do?
The primary vitamin E benefits for our body is for skin protection against environmental damage. It protects the skin against free radicals and other environmental factors such as UVB rays from the sun. It’s a very important antioxidant for the body. the antioxidant activity from vitamin E can be summarized quickly from this paragraph in this life extension article:
“Vitamin E, because it’s a lipid-soluble antioxidant, easily penetrates into the vital membranes of the skin cells and accumulates there to protect against the damaging effects of lipid peroxidation.2 Both tocotrienols and tocopherols can freely donate a hydrogen atom (a proton plus electron) from the hydroxyl group on their chromanol ring. This action completes the molecular structure of the unbalanced free radical, effectively inactivating or quenching it.”
Some other benefits of vitamin E include those shown in the image to the left and it’s help in proper immune function, proper gene expression and along with selenium might be helpful in improving glutathione levels in the body! Glutathione is probably the most important antioxidant for the body, it’s also the one that helps fight alcohol toxicity for example. In conclusion, Vitamin E is definitely very important for skin health and can also help with acne.
Good sources of vitamin E foods
Most diets get their vitamin E from polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as soybean, canola & corn. These are not really healthy in the long term, because of all the omega 6s they contain (for more information read my post on the benefits of fish oil and the importance of a proper omega 3 to 6 ratio, something that these vegetable oils harm). Olive oil is probably a healthy source of a moderate amount of vitamin E, make sure you keep it in the dark with the cap on to limit contact with oxygen, and do not cook at high heat with it or you will make it go rancid quickly.
The best sources of vitamin E are from plant sources such as spinach, chard, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocadoes, eggs, brocoli, kale. Grass fed beef also has some in minimal quantities (unlike grain fed).
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, so make sure you take some fat along with these veggies for proper absorption. To see how much you are actually getting from your portions of vegetables I recommend going to the http://cronometer.com/.
It can be hard to reach the RDA of 15mg of vitamin E. Something else to keep in mind since for the reasons later in this article you probably want to avoid vitamin E supplements is that you might want to take vitamin C or ALA supplements which both have the ability to “re-activate” vitamin E, making whatever amount of it you have even more useful.
“But vitamin E enjoys a special relationship with two other antioxidants, vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid, that allow it to continue protecting the skin.5 Both vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid have the ability to take away the extra electron from a used vitamin E molecule, effectively reactivating it.” Taken from http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/aug2012_Skin-Protection-Effects-Of-Vitamin-E_01.htm
The danger of supplementing with vitamin E instead of whole foods
I want to mention that almost all the current forms of vitamin E supplements can/are actually be HARMFUL to your health. Vitamin E supplementation has actually been shown to increase prostate cancer risk in men. This definitely shows that supplementing with a high amount of vitamin E E (400 IU in this case) is definitely stupid. However their might be room for smaller amounts such as 5-15IU if you take into consideration what comes next… Most vitamin E supplements are of the synthetic “dl alpha tocopherol” type and the problem comes that this synthetic form of vitamin E can actually displace the “proper” form of vitamin E present in the body, gamma tocopherol. While technically alpha tocopherol is also useful, the problem comes that the health benefits you might inherit from the synthetic form are ultimately negated by the gamma tocopherol form of vitamin E that you lose in the body. For a longer and more detailed/scientific explanation you might want to consult this post by life extension.You also want it to be a “complex of vitamin E” like it would be in natural. Which means at least of four tocopherols (d-alpha-tocopherol, d-beta-tocopherol, d-gamma-tocopherol, and d-delta-tocopherol) and/or the four tocotrienols (d-alpha-tocotrienol, d-beta-tocotrienol, d-gamma-tocotrienol, d-delta-tocotrienol)
All this to say that when it comes to vitamin E, a vitamin many want to supplement with for life extension/skin health, it can actually be deadly and increase your risk of cancer if you take the form in most multivitamins (synthetic alpha tocopherol) and cheap vitamin E supplements in most drug stores. As you might also expect, gamma tocopherol is the type most predominant in food sources as well, meaning it’s probably better/natural for your body to have it in a higher percentage. You most likely want to take vitamin E from foods, which will be detailed further down this post. However, if you do want take vitamin E from supplements, make sure it does not have “DL” (meaning it’s a synthetic form) in front and only “d” (which means it’s at least natural, like in the image example above). I personally think that I just do not want to risk anything when it comes to vitamin E supplements until some proper research with vitamin e complex brands are done.
This is another good reason why cheap multivitamins are a BAD idea. They often have the cheapest form of vitamins and when it comes to vitamin E and magnesium oxide that I discuss in my post on magnesium deficiency symptoms, quality matters a lot. You don’t want to be taking a multivitamin and calling it a day, make sure to take the supplements you actually need. You can also consult my post on the supplements I take that pretty much everyone should also take.