Vitamin E is regarded as the most important of the fat-soluble antioxidants, and many of its physiological actions are attributed to its antioxidant properties.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps protect cell membranes from free radical damage, excessive levels of which have been associated with the development of a wide range of chronic health problems and degenerative diseases. Vitamin E is part of a network of nutritional antioxidants that also includes vitamin C and selenium, and is often taken in conjunction with these nutrients for its antioxidant actions.
Blood vessel health
Vitamin E prevents free radical damage (oxidation) to LDL-cholesterol (sometimes referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol). This action is particularly valuable for heart and blood vessel health because oxidised cholesterol particles are regarded as being more likely than others to induce inflammation and other changes in the blood vessels, and may increase the likelihood of plaque being deposited in the walls of arteries.
Vitamin E also performs several other helpful roles in the cardiovascular system, including:
- Helping to maintain the structure and function of the capillaries and other blood vessels
- Assisting in maintaining blood circulation to the peripheral areas of the body such as the legs, hands and feet
- Helping to maintain healthy blood viscosity (thickness) by inhibiting the aggregation of platelets and their adherence to blood vessel walls
What else does vitamin E do?
In addition to its actions in the cardiovascular system, vitamin E may also:
- Help maintain health and wellbeing
- Help to maintain immune defences, and in this regard may be especially beneficial for older people
Where can I find vitamin E?
Valuable dietary sources of vitamin E include wheat germ oil and other cold-pressed vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, egg yolks, dairy products and soybeans. If you’re taking supplements, always choose a formula that contains vitamin E in its natural form, d-alpha tocopherol (also known as RRR-alpha-tocopherol).
This is the form of vitamin E found in the largest quantities in the blood and tissue, and is twice as biologically active as the synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol or all-rac-alpha-tocopherol).