A balanced diet comprises essential calories, proteins, nutrients, minerals, bioactive phytochemicals, dietary fiber, antioxidants and nutraceuticals. While most individuals are aware of the requirement of proteins, knowledge about other requirements, especially Vitamins is typically low. Vitamin E, as an essential nutrient is important for various functions and actions in the body – vision, for brain health, better skin and for the blood. It plays a vital role in reproduction, and is a powerhouse of antioxidants that are necessary to fight free radicals. Here is in-depth information about the fat-soluble essential nutrient, including information about Vitamin E side effects, tips to soften/prevent side effects.
Overview of the nutrient and Vitamin E side effects
Here is a quick look at the nutrient and its natural sources, before diving into Vitamin E side effects. Compounds are formed when the body converts consumed food into energy, and these compounds, known as free radicals are known to contribute to disease. Additionally, pollution, radiation and tobacco smoke also contribute to the creation of free radicals. As a rich source of antioxidants, Vitamin E helps in fighting free radicals that are responsible for cancer and heart disease.
The body receives its supply of Vitamin E typically from natural food products, and only when there is a deficiency, it is necessary to look at supplements. Vitamin E is available in various food products, including meat, oil, nuts, dairy, greens and fortified food products. For instance, Vitamin E is naturally available in green vegetables including spinach and broccoli. Individuals can easily intake the recommended daily amount of Vitamin E by consuming the right proportions of these food products. Vegetable oils including wheat germ, sunflower, corn and soybean are sources of the essential nutrient. Fortified food products including cereals, spreads, and fruit juices contain adequate amounts of the nutrient, and help individuals intake the desired daily levels. Finally, nuts and seeds are also a good source of the vitamin, contributing towards daily intake.
Individuals looking at supplements to augment the supply of Vitamin E are advised to choose products that contain eight different compounds. This is an important requirement and key to the effectiveness of the supplements. In other words, the supplements need to contain, four different types of tocopherols, apart from four other types of tocotrienols. The combination of unsaturated and saturated side chains from these eight different compounds are important for best results.
Recommended daily requirement or amount of Vitamin E
Before we look at Vitamin E side effects here is a small compilation of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin E that needs to be consumed. Tis will help eliminate the need for supplements or excessive consumption that may result in undesirable effects. On an average, the RDA is 15 milligrams per day for adults. However, the actual requirements vary with age. Infants below the age of 6 months require an average of 4 milligrams per day. For infants between the ages of 7 months to one year, the requirement increases to 5 milligrams per day. The RDA for children between the ages of 1 year to 3 years is 6 mg per day, and this increases by 1 milligram for children between the ages of 4 to 8 years.
The requirement spikes sharply for children between 9 years and 13 years, to 11 milligram per day. In the case of teenagers above 14 years of age, the recommended daily average is the same as that of adults, i.e., 15 milligram per day. Women and pregnant women are also recommended the same amount per day, while women who are breastfeeding are advised to take a higher amount of 19 milligram per day. The required amount of the nutrient can be easily supplied to the body through naturally available sources of food.
Claimed health benefits from Vitamin E supplements and probable risks
Vitamin E side effects are often the result of excessive intake of supplements or incorrect intake of supplements. Supplements are consumed by individuals for specific health benefits. Here is a look at the health benefits of Vitamin E supplements, which will help to understand the probable risks. Individuals on Vitamin E supplements may benefit from reducing risk of developing coronary heart disease. Studies conducted in the past, point to lesser risk of heart disease, though further research is required to substantiate or firm up the evidence in support of the claim. Similarly, use of Vitamin E among cancer patients has also resulted in contrasting results. For instance, use of Vitamin E over a long period has reportedly helped patients with bladder cancer, reducing risk of fatalities.
However, other studies have indicated that Vitamin E does not have positive impact on cancer patients. Certain studies, have reportedly shown that Vitamin E usage could expose the individual to risk of developing prostate cancer, if the supplements were taken for a long time. The mechanism of action of Vitamin E and other dietary supplements may have an impact on the desired outcomes of radiation and chemotherapy. It is therefore necessary for patients to specifically seek medical advice before taking the supplements. This is especially true in the cases of individuals who take high dosages of the supplements or for a longer period.
Impact of Vitamin E on vision, AMD and mental health
Vitamin E is touted as an effective supplement to treat individuals with age related macular degeneration (AMD) or vision loss. While reports suggest that Vitamin E supplements help to reduce the rate of vision loss with a positive impact on vision in the elderly, further research is required to substantiate the claims. Vitamin E supplements combined with various other antioxidants including zinc and copper have been regularly used for helping the elderly halt age related vision loss. The supplements have also been used in the past to treat individuals with specific mental issues, mainly Alzheimer’s. While reports suggest that the supplements may have an impact on improving mental functioning, or halting the decline of mental health in patients with Alzheimer’s, the claims require further documented studies and corroboration.