Vitamin E

In 1922, University of California researchers Hebert Evans and Katherine Bishop discovered vitamin E in green leafy vegetables. Experiments in that year showed that rates reared exclusively on while milk grew normally but were sterile and could not reproduce. Evans and Bishop showed that the missing factor was vitamin E, an antioxidant, which is abundant in certain foods such as green leaves and wheat grass. Natural forms of vitamin E (complex) lose up to 99 percent of their potency when separated from their natural synergists (naturally occurring matrix factors).

Synthetic vitamin E is not true vitamin E.

Vitamin E is fat-soluble and exists in eight different naturally occurring forms: four tocopherols (including alpha, beta, gamma, and delta), and four tocotrienols (also alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Each form has its own biological activity. Alpha-tocopherol is the main recognized form of vitamin E, the form found in the largest quantities in the blood and tissue. Because alpha-tocopherol appears to have a significant nutritional activity, it is the part of the vitamin that most people identify as vitamin E.

Alpha-tocopherol is a powerful biological antioxidant and acts to protect our cells against the effects of free radicals, those damaging byproducts of the body’s metabolism. Free radicals cause cell damage that very often contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature aging.

In the case of vitamin E (tocopherol), the dextral form occurs in nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and vegetables, and is the form that is highly usable and biologically active in the body. Synthetic vitamin E, found in the levo-form of tocopherol (listed as dl-tocopherol), is often made form a petrochemical and is not usable by the body, so our systems must work to eliminate it. This is a synthetic fraction divided from its other parts, so it is not authentic vitamin E. As is the case with all natural vitamins, vitamin E is a complex of naturally occurring tocopherols and other naturally occurring factors and cofactors that cannot work effectively in isolation.

Fats, which are an integral part of all cell membranes, are vulnerable to destruction through oxidation by free radicals. The fat-soluble vitamin alpha-tocopherol helps to intercept free radicals, preventing a chain reaction of lipid (fat) destruction. Aside from maintaining the integrity of cell membranes throughout the body, alpha-tocopherol is known to protect dense fats in low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) from oxidation. Lipoproteins are particles composed of lipids and proteins, which are able to transport fats through the blood stream untouched.  LDL transports healthy cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body. Oxidized LDLs have been implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases. Alpha-tocopherol is known to inhibit the activity of the protein kinase C, and important cell-signaling molecule, as well as to affect the expression and activity of immune and inflammatory cells.

Vitamin E deficiency has been associated with severe malnutrition, gentic defects affecting the a-tocopherol transfer protein, and fat absorption problems. Children with cystic fibrosis or cholestatic liver disease, who have an impaired capacity to absorb dietary fat and therefore fat-soluble vitamins, may develop symptomatic vitamin E deficiency. Severe vitamin E deficiency results mainly in neurological symptoms such as impaired balance and coordination, and muscle weakness. The developing nervous system appears to be especially vulnerable to vitamin E deficiency, because children born with severe vitamin E deficiency and not treated with whole-food vitamin E may rapidly develop neurological symptoms. In contrast, individuals who develop mal-absorption of vitamin E in adulthood may not develop neurological symptoms for 10 to 20 years.

Researchers have noted that oxidative modification of LDL cholesterol (often referred to as “bad” cholesterol) promotes blockages in coronary arteries, which may lead to atherosclerosis and heart attacks. Vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease by limiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Vitamin E also may help prevent the formation of blood clots, which lead to heart attach and stroke.

Observational studies have associated lower rates of heart disease with higher vitamin E intake. A study of approximately 90,000 nurses suggested that the incidence of heart disease was 30 to 40 percent lower among nurses with the highest intake of vitamin E from diet.

Vitamin E is found naturally in wheat grass, corn, nuts, seeds, olives, spinach, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, uncooked vegetable oils, and every green sprout.

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