Take vitamin E to slow aging and live healthier

Vitamin E and C work together

Vitamin E, being fat-soluble, is the primary antioxidant against free radical damage to lipids, including those that make up cell membranes. It anchors itself in the membrane and traps free radicals attempting entry into the cell. With its limited capacity for containing trapped free radicals, vitamin E transfers them to vitamin C, which neutralizes the radicals. This simple measure restores vitamin E to full scavenging potential. That's why supplements that contain both vitamins provide better antioxidant protection than single vitamins.

Take vitamin E if you exercise

Exercise speeds up metabolism which in turn beefs up the generation of free radicals. Consequently, the more one exercises, the greater the need for vitamin E. Because it's fat soluble, vitamin E affords longer lasting protection for athletes as demonstrated among a group of professional basketball players. Twenty-four players were divided into two groups. One group received an antioxidant supplement containing vitamin E, and the other group were given a placebo. After one month of supplementation, the supplemented athletes had a 32 percent increase in vitamin E concentration, while the placebo group had a 7.3 percent reduction in vitamin E. Even "weekend warriors" can benefit from daily supplementation of 100 to 400 IU of vitamin E.

Anti-aging benefits of vitamin E

Vitamin E, more than any other vitamin, is associated with reducing aging and age-related conditions. As one ages, levels of vitamin E decline just as other antioxidant defenses break down. It comes as no surprise then, that aging conditions such as cognitive decline, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, cataract, and cancer may be reduced by supplementation with vitamin E.

Less cognitive decline with E

A 7-year study of 2,889 patients at the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago showed that those who had high vitamin E intakes from diet and supplements had 36 percent less decline in cognitive function than those whose vitamin E intake was low. The protective effects were not found for either vitamin C or carotenes.

Vitamin E and Alzheimer's

Vitamin E impacts Alzheimer's disease, but only at higher doses. Six hundred and thirty-three seniors completed a 4-year Boston scientific survey that showed a significant dose response with vitamins C and E and Alzheimer's. Twenty-three of the group took vitamin C supplements (500 mg/day), 27 took vitamin E (400 IU/day) and 68 took a multi-vitamin containing 60 mg vitamin C and 30 IU vitamin E. Those who took supplements of either vitamin C or E did not develop the disease while 11 of those who took the lower dose multi-vitamin developed Alzheimer's. Eighty Alzheimer's patients were found among those who didn't take any vitamins. Other researchers report that even higher doses of vitamin E (2,000 IU/day) are needed to reduce disease progression in those with advanced Alzheimer's.

Insulin resistance and diabetes

Vitamin E reduces inflammatory substances and oxidative by-products in type 1 and 2 diabetic patients. The doses that have been used in clinical trials vary from 400 IU to 1,800 IU. The evidence suggests that 400 IU may not be enough and that the higher levels are needed to prevent oxidative damage, particularly in type 1 diabetics. Furthermore, long-term supplementation is recommended.

Vitamin E and immunity

Eighty-eight healthy people aged 65 or older were studied for their immune response after supplementation with vitamin E. The researchers from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University in Boston assigned the group to take vitamin E at 90 IU, 300 IU, 1,200 IU per day or a placebo. Immune response to infectious agents was highest for all the vitamin E groups, with those taking 300 IU showing the greatest response. This study agrees with another study done at Johns Hopkins University that found healthy adults over 65 do not need mega-doses of vitamin E to improve several measures of immune function. This is particularly true if other antioxidants are also supplemented.

Vitamin E and your heart

In the double-blind Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study over 2,000 patients with coronary artery disease received a placebo pill or 400 IU or 800 IU of vitamin E daily. Truly remarkable results showed those who took either dose of the vitamin E reduced their risk of nonfatal heart attack by 77% over one year compared to the placebo group.

Safety of vitamin E

Despite more than 20,000 studies on vitamin E, occasional negative findings are inevitable. Such is the case recently in a meta-analysis of 19 studies, 11 of which showed vitamin E in high doses may increase the risk of mortality by a slim margin of 6%. When all 19 studies are combined, there is no increased risk. Drawing conclusions are difficult because most of the high dose studies were experimental in nature and dealt with extremely sick and elderly patients while the lower dose studies were predominantly done with healthy adults. The authors themselves stated, "the generalization of the finding to healthy adults is uncertain." Says Dr. Hathcock of the Council of Responsible Nutrition, "In reviewing the totality of evidence on vitamin E, including all clinical trial data and several large observations studies, CRN agrees with the Institute of Medicine in finding vitamin E supplements safe at levels of at least up to 1,600 IU for normal, healthy adults. This meta-analysis provides no convincing evidence to the contrary."

Take natural vitamin E

Although only alpha tocopherol is used to designate international units or IUs of vitamin activity, mixed tocopherol supplements containing alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherols are very popular because of the additional antioxidant protection afforded by the other tocopherols. I recommend natural vitamin E (designated with the prefix d-alpha) which is 1.35 times more potent than the synthetic dl-alpha form. Because antioxidants need to recharge and support each other, always take vitamin E with other antioxidants.


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