Vitamin E is well known as an effective antioxidant in skin care products. But we do vitamin E an injustice to focus exclusively its external effects. Beauty and eternal youth are said to come from within. This is particularly so if the active ingredient comes from a natural source. Vegetable oils play a vital role in this area.

Vi­t­a­min E is recog­nised as an im­por­tant li­posol­u­ble an­tiox­i­dant. It pro­tects the lipoid struc­tures of our cell mem­brane from ox­i­dants, oth­er­wise known as free rad­i­cals. Free rad­i­cals are highly re­ac­tive oxy­gen com­pounds be­cause they have one elec­tron miss­ing. They are quite ag­gres­sive as they at­tempt to be­come com­plete as quickly as pos­si­ble. Like a pick­pocket, they steal the elec­tron they need from the near­est mol­e­cule and so dam­age the cell mem­brane or the DNA. This re­sults in an al­most in­fi­nite chain re­ac­tion of ox­ida­tive processes – in other words, of steal­ing from and being robbed.

An­tiox­i­dants – pro­tec­tion against elec­tron theft

Thank­fully, help is at hand against elec­tron theft: the rad­i­cal catch­ers or an­tiox­i­dants. These in­clude vi­t­a­min E. An­tiox­i­dants hin­der the ox­ida­tive process (1) be­cause they have extra elec­trons to give away. They ac­tively seek out the free rad­i­cals and give them the miss­ing elec­trons. This stops the chain re­ac­tion, as every­thing now has what it needs.

"Changed eat­ing habits mean we are con­sum­ing fewer and fewer an­tiox­i­dants in the form of nat­ural vi­t­a­min E."

And our body can cope with a few at­tacks by ox­i­dants. Ox­ida­tive processes are in fact es­sen­tial for the human or­gan­ism’s sur­vival. Free rad­i­cals ac­ti­vate our self heal­ing forces and de­stroy dis­ease-caus­ing germs by trig­ger­ing in­flam­ma­tory processes. De­spite the ben­e­fits of ox­i­dants to health, it is im­por­tant to delay the point at which they gain the upper hand for as long as pos­si­ble.

Vi­t­a­min E helps against ox­ida­tive stress

Al­though the an­tiox­i­dants work re­ally well and at­tempt to main­tain a bal­ance with the ox­i­dants, they do have cer­tain lim­i­ta­tions. An im­bal­ance, and so a pre­pon­der­ance of ox­i­da­tion processes, is in­evitable. Over the years, our bod­ies rust like old iron. The nat­ural age­ing process sets in and sig­nif­i­cant mem­brane dam­age en­sues. Cells stop work­ing prop­erly or die.

We can­not halt the age­ing process, but we can slow it down by avoid­ing ox­ida­tive stress and try­ing to live a healthy life. This in­cludes avoid­ing ex­ces­sive al­co­hol con­sump­tion and smok­ing (2), as well as foods con­tain­ing in­dus­tri­ally pro­duced fats and pes­ti­cide residues – an un­der­tak­ing that is not al­ways easy to achieve. Nowa­days we are more sus­cep­ti­ble to free rad­i­cals than our an­ces­tors: air pol­lu­tion, long-term stress, pes­ti­cides and lack of ex­er­cise all take their toll. And to make mat­ters worse, changed di­etary habits mean that we are also con­sum­ing fewer and fewer an­tiox­i­dants in the form of nat­ural vi­t­a­min E (3, 4).

Com­plete pro­tec­tion against the age­ing process

It is well worth keep­ing vi­t­a­min E on the menu! For in­stance, vi­t­a­min E hin­ders ag­glu­ti­na­tion of the platelets and pre­vents ox­i­da­tion of harm­ful LDL cho­les­terol. This op­ti­mises blood flow and means that less fat and cal­cium is stored on the ar­te­r­ial walls. The risk of throm­bo­sis, strokes and heart at­tacks can be min­imised (5). A cur­rent Ital­ian study shows that vi­t­a­min E can re­duce the risk of heart at­tack by around twenty per cent (6).

Vi­t­a­min E also has an im­por­tant role to play with re­gard to the cog­ni­tive im­pair­ments fre­quently as­so­ci­ated with the age­ing process. Our cur­rent as­sump­tion is that ox­ida­tive stress is a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor in Alzheimer’s dis­ease. The con­sump­tion of vi­t­a­min E does not pre­vent the onset of the dis­ease, but it can slow its course (7) be­cause vi­t­a­min E can pre­serve the pro­tec­tive cloak around the brain’s nerve cells. With in­creas­ing age, the im­mune sys­tem and the eyes often grow weaker. Vi­t­a­min E strength­ens the body’s de­fences for old peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar (8) and pre­vents opac­ity of the eye lens (9). And these are all ben­e­fits that im­prove our qual­ity of life.

Al­pha-to­co­pherol: more ef­fec­tive than any­thing else

Vi­t­a­min E has a rel­a­tively com­plex struc­ture and serves as an um­brella term for eight li­posol­u­ble sub­stances, the to­co­pherols and to­cotrienols, which the body can­not form it­self. Vi­t­a­min E is most ef­fec­tive as a holis­tic team with all its nat­ural sec­ondary as­so­ci­ated ma­te­ri­als.

But one mem­ber of the vi­t­a­min E fam­ily out­shines the rest: al­pha-to­co­pherol. Un­for­tu­nately only a pale im­i­ta­tion of al­pha-to­co­pherol can be pro­duced ­synthetically. Nat­ural vi­t­a­min E is prefer­able as it has the ­closest affin­ity to the human or­gan­ism. And nat­ural al­pha-to­co­pherol is far more ef­fec­tive than its syn­thetic equiv­a­lent. The bioac­tiv­ity of nat­ural al­pha-to­co­pherol is around 50 per cent higher (10).

Veg­etable oils – a nat­ural source of vi­t­a­min E

Cold pressed veg­etable oils are an ex­cel­lent source of al­pha-to­co­pherol. Wheat germ, sun­flower and saf­flower oil have the high­est al­pha-to­co­pherol con­tent. But the aro­matic al­mond, apri­cot and sesame oils also con­tain healthy vi­t­a­min E. The best choice is a prod­uct that is or­gan­i­cally grown, which avoids sub­ject­ing the body to harm­ful sub­stances such ­as pes­ti­cides. These con­sti­tute an un­nec­es­sary in­crease in the ox­ida­tive stress fac­tor (11). 

Fur­ther In­for­ma­tion


Marbacher Daily Vitamin E requirement


1) Biesalski H.K., Köhrle J., Schümann K.: Vitamine, Spurenelemente und Mineralstoffe. 14–18, Georg Thieme Verlag; Stuttgart/New York 2002
2) Bruno RS., et al. A-Tocopherol disappearance is faster in cigarette smokers and is inversely related to their ascorbic acid status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81:95–103
4) Maras JE., et al. Intake of alpha-tocopherol is limited among US adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004;104:567–575
5) Glynn R., et al. Effects of Random Allocation to Vitamin E Supplementation on the Occurrence of Venous Thromboembolism: report from the Women´s Health Study. Circulation 2007; 116:1497–1503
6) Loffredo L., et al. Supplementation with vitamin E alone is associated with reduced myocardial infarction: a meta-analysis. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. Published online February 2012
7) The TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2014; 311(1): 33–44
8) Meydani SN., et al. Vitamin E and respiratory tract infections in elderly nursing home residents: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2004; 292:828–836
9) Leske MC., et al. Antioxidant vitamins and nuclear opacities: the longitudinal study of cataract. Ophthalmology 1998; 105:831–836
10), Jan. 2016
11) International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, Volume 3, Issue 1, July–August 2010; Article 021, ISSN 0976–044X

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