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There’s A Vitamin You’re Almost Certainly Deficient In.How Do You Fix The Problem?
It’s no secret that the modern lifestyle of commuting, eating processed foods, and constant sitting in indoor, climate-controlled environments is unhealthy. It results in increased rate of disease, obesity, and nutrient deficiencies. One of the most critical deficiencies that is rarely talked about is insufficient levels of vitamin E.
Everyone knows that vitamin C boosts the immune system, and that B vitamins give you energy. More recently, the benefits of vitamin D are getting more attention in the media. But vitamin E remains seldom-discussed, and this is a big mistake.
Vitamin E deficiency has been linked to neurodegenerative problems, weakened immune systems, neuromuscular issues, muscle weakness, retinopathy, and cardiovascular illness.
What’s more alarming is how prevalent vitamin E deficiency is around the world. Data presented at the World Congress for Public Health Nutrition this year showed that approximately 90 percent of people in the United States alone are getting insufficient amounts of vitamin E. Levels in many other countries are similarly high.
In order to understand what is so vital about this vitamin, as well as how to fix this problem, it’s important to understand a little more about the vitamin itself.
Vitamin E is classified as a macronutrient and has antioxidant properties. Much like vitamin D, it is fat-soluble, meaning it is best consumed with a food high in fat for optimal absorption. Vitamin E helps maintain visual, nervous system, and cardiovascular health.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin E for adults is 15-20 mg per day, but many people fall well below this threshold. Most people fail to get enough due to unhealthy diets. This is even true for “healthy” people who watch their diets. Due to decades of misguided public health campaigns blaming fat for all manner of illness, many people partaking exclusively in “fat-free” foods are unable to absorb this fat-soluble nutrient properly.
It is important to understand that there are two different kinds of vitamin E: Naturally occurring and synthetic. Natural vitamin E contains two different kinds of molecule groups: Tocopherols, and Tocotrienols, both of which are further divided into four sub-categories, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta, respectively.
This is where things get kind of complicated. There are some scientific articles claiming that only the tocopherol compounds in vitamin E are beneficial to human health. But this is largely because the majority of studies have focused only on those vitamin E compounds and not the tocotrienol varieties.
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Here is where the synthetic vitamin E comes in: Vitamin E in its naturally occurring form (found in food) contains all eight sub-categories of vitamin E. In most nutritional supplements, however, you’re getting synthetic vitamin E, which usually only has one of the seven — alpha-tocopherol. You will get some benefit from this, but it’s better to get vitamin E in its whole form.
The problem is that supplement labels rarely state clearly whether they include natural or synthetic vitamin E. One useful way to determine whether the brand you are taking offers natural or synthetic vitamin E is to check how the scientific name of the supplement is spelled:
- Natural vitamin E will be spelled d-alpha-tocopherol.
- Synthetic vitamin E will be spelled as dl-alpha-tocopherol.
The “dl” is what marks the difference. Once again, it is better to get vitamin E in a naturally occurring context from whole foods.
Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties protect the body’s cells from oxidative stress. It also plays a role in protecting eye health and ensuring strong vision, as well as boosting the effectiveness of the immune system.
One interesting benefit of vitamin E is the role it plays in producing compounds called prostaglandins. These lipid compounds play a role in regulating blood pressure and muscle contraction, as well as helping repair muscle tissues after strenuous use.
Vitamin E supplements have demonstrated interactions with more than 200 different medications, so talk to your doctor BEFORE taking them to make sure it is safe. As a general rule, it is better to get vitamin E from natural whole foods.
If you are looking to increase your vitamin E levels naturally, these foods are your options for natural sources:
- Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chards, turnip greens
- Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds
- Fish: Trout, salmon, herrings
- Other vegetables: Broccoli, pumpkin, squash
- Certain fruits: Kiwis, avocados (yes, avocados are technically a fruit), mangoes, peaches, blackberries, mamey sapote
Some nutritional articles and guides recommend vegetable oils like canola and wheat germ oil, since these products are rich in vitamin E. However, they also contain polyunsaturated fats, the risks of which may outweigh the benefits of consuming them. It’s better to get your vitamin E from one of the healthier items listed above.