Vitamins protect – that's their whole function. They protect us from various diseases – so vitamin C protects us from weak bones and skin by helping the body make stronger collagen and vitamin E protects us from so many health issues that we're going to take this article to go through a few of them.
First of all we have to know what we are talking about – what is vitamin E?
Just like vitamin B is really not one vitamin but is a mix of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and so on…and that's why it is called B complex. Not because it is “hard” simply that it is a whole mix of different natural substances needed by the body.
Vitamin E is a complex too and we truly should call it “vitamin E complex”. For some reason though people still talk and write about vitamin E as if it is one thing and not 8 separate natural chemicals.
What Vitamin E Does
Looking at how a vitamin was discovered often throws a lot of light on its power and how best to use it.
In the case of vitamin E scientists found that when laboratory rats were fed on a very poor diet the rats were often sterile and when wheat germ oil was added to the rats' diet their apparent sterility was cured.
And that is how this vitamin was discovered – an unknown substance was found in the wheat germ and that was called vitamin E.
And that is how it got its reputation as an “anti-sterility” vitamin.
The scientific name was “Tocopherol” pronounced as “Tock”+”Off”+”er”+”ol” because “Tokos” means children and “pherol” means to bear.
So vitamin E made its name, literally as the Child bearing or Fertility vitamin.
8 Varieties of Vitamin E
Later it turned out that there are 4 versions of what was called vitamin E and then another 4 were discovered, so all together vitamin E is a mix or complex of 8 natural substances.
The eight types of vitamin E break down into 2 groups of 4. One group we've mentioned already – they are the 4 tocopherols.
The other 4 are the tocotrienols pronounced as “toco” + “try”+”en”+”ols”
This took a lot of time to work out and researchers got into a habit of just taking one of the 8 parts of vitamin E and doing experiments with it to see what it was capable of.
And calling THAT one “vitamin E” instead of “One of the 8 versions of vitamin E”!
A short rant starts here…
And just in case that seems stupid and even wrong headed, it gets even worse – often they did not even use one of the 8 naturally occurring parts of vitamin E they used a man made, synthetic imitation of vitamin E made by a pharmaceutical company and then publish the results of the research without even being upfront about this “Bait and Switch”.
I have no problem with companies making whatever they like and making a good profit too but when a study is published on Vitamin A or Vitamin E it should be on those exact molecules and not on a different artificial version cooked up in a test tube.
If science is to be taken as real and worthwhile it must be about telling the truth – the full truth.
Like this, “We used a synthetic version of vitamin blah blah supplied by Pharmaceutical company blah blah”.
That's all it takes to be honest.
And the reason I am beating this to death is that nearly all of the discussions of vitamin E are either on 1 of the 8 parts of vitamin E or on a synthetic imitation of vitamin E and no one is being clear about this.
Rant over – for now anyway!
The fact that vitamin E was found in wheat germ oil is important. It does not mean that we all have to use wheat germ oil on our breakfasts or on salads although those sound like yummy ideas to me – what it means is that vitamin E is oil soluble and can be used to reach and protect parts of the body that cannot be reached by vitamins B and C – the water soluble vitamins.
Vitamin E can protect the membrane around each and every cell. Cell membranes have a lipid layer – a thin layer made of a mix of fats and oils. And this layer on the outside of each of our body cells picks up damage from oxidation just like all parts of the body.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant and so it protects us from oxidation, from what we might call “rust” on a car! When tissues get oxidised they are damaged and lose function and this is a major way in which we lose function as we get older.
There is nothing special or damaging about getting older – there is no basic reason that we have to lose function. Getting older just means getting more oxidation damage because we do not usually use supplements properly. We can, if we choose, reduce or remove the oxidation damage by carefully using vitamin E and other antioxidants.
So vitamin E protects – not just body cells – but also the cells in the blood from oxidation by heavy metals and chemical pollutants and solvents.
By protecting the white blood cells from damage it can protect the immune system from damage by oxidation during exposure to viral disease.
And now…the bogeyman!
Time now to mention…cholesterol. Truth is that the amount of cholesterol in the your blood does not matter. That was a false trail that was started back in the 1950s and people simply could not chasing Big Foot or Cholesterol, whatever you want to call it.
There is one basic problem in your bloodstream and it is not the AMOUNT of cholesterol but whether your precious cholesterol is OXIDISED or not.
Oxidised cholesterol will damage your arteries, THAT is the fundamental issue and we know already that vitamin E – real vitamin E – protects us against oxidation and that protection includes cholesterol.
So please adjust your view! Your LDL and HDL and all that are not all that important. It is the C-Reactive Protein measurement of your blood that is crucial because that is a measurement of inflammation. If C-Reactive Protein is high then your antioxidant protection is inadequate and you need to consult a Professional to help fill in the gaps in your armour!
By the way, one of the ignored parts of vitamin E is called gamma tocopherol is unique in protecting the body against Nitrogen reactive molecules. This may not sound all that significant but is crucial in the polluted environments in which most of us live.
Blood thinning Anyone?
One of the properties of vitamin E that was found pretty early on in its discovery in the 1940s by 2 Doctors who were brothers was that it was vital for the treatment of many circulation disorders including stroke, retinopathy and Intermittent Claudication.
Part of the healing effect of vitamin E was that it inhibited clumping of red blood cells produced by oxidation and therefore provided a kind of anti-coagulation effect, so that blood could flow easily along the blood vessels. This is also called “Blood thinning”.
Note – be very cautious of taking Blood thinning or anticoagulation medication if you are also taking a high dose supplement of vitamin E or you may get too much blood thinning.
The same caution holds for Aspirin too. If you are taking regular Aspirin for either pain relief or blood thinning I'd advise seeing a Naturopath to optimise your diet, supplements and medication.
The risk is that adding up 2 or 3 blood thinning medicines you may get internal bleeding, perhaps in the brain or the stomach!
Wheat Germ Oil
Vitamin E Supplement
As above, most supplements include only 1 of the 8 varieties of the vitamin. Doing this may well be dangerous and I advise avoiding any vitamin E that only has alpha-tocopherol and of course avoiding synthetic forms like dl-alpha-tocopherol.
The best I managed to find is the “Life Extension Gamma E Tocopherol/tocotrienols”. It has ALL 8 of the parts of vitamin E contained in a softgel capsule.
The capsule is my only criticism because it stops those who follow a vegetarian diet or who are simply against cruelty to animals from using the gelatin and glycerine capsule.
For a vegetarian capsule try this “Vitamin Code, RAW Vitamin E” from Garden of Life which has 6 of the 8 types of vitamin E and is actually a multivitamin containing A, D, E and K vitamins!
If you know of a better vegetarian version please let me know and I'll update this advice!
Last Words on Vitamin E
We've been looking at some of the health benefits of vitamin E. These health befits can be ours simply by including foods or supplements with Vitamin E in our daily routine.
As an effective antioxidant vitamin E gives us some much needed protection against diseases with inflammation as a central feature. These include arthritis, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
That simple foods such as green leafy vegetables and sunflower seeds can give us so much is a source of wonder. I strongly advise you to include a vitamin E supplement and some vitamin E foods into your daily routine and get that health protection for yourself.