Are Vitamin E Supplements As Effective As Natural Sources?

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Vitamin E is a group of compounds that performs some vital functions in the body. It is a micronutrient, which means that it is required in minute quantity. It is readily available in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. Cereals and other food that are fortified with vitamins also contain a good amount of Vitamin E.

What are the functions of Vitamin E?

The most vital function that Vitamin E performs is that of an antioxidant. To understand how important this function is for the body, it is necessary to understand how free radicals generated in the body affect the cells and the kind of damage they cause.

Our bodies are made of cells which are further made up of molecules and atoms, and they are the building blocks of organs and tissues. These atoms and molecules have electrons which are negatively charged particles and based on the number of electrons in them they are either stable or unstable. Unstable particles by their very nature cannot remain in this state and attempt to gain or lose an electron to stabilise itself. To do so, it attacks the nearest stable molecule and steals an electron, in the process creating yet another unstable molecule, or free radical. This is a chain reaction which can have a cascading effect and over time leave the body with so many free radicals that the organs begin to show the effect and break down. This is where antioxidants help, as they are substances which can share their electrons with free radicals without becoming unstable themselves. They can neutralise the damage-causing free radicals and make them harmless. They are also known as free radical scavengers because of this property that they possess.

Vitamin E is a very efficient antioxidant that can protect the body from the destructive effect of free radicals. It defends the cells in the body against oxidation and reduces oxidation of LDL cholesterol which causes the formation of plaques that blocks arteries. It helps widen blood vessels and lessens the chances of blood clotting. In this way, vitamin E protects us from cardiovascular diseases as well.

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– Vitamin E, along with vitamin C, is essential for a healthy immune system. An adequate intake of vitamins E and C together keeps the immune system fit to fight against germs and viruses, and helps prevent infections from bacteria and other pathogens. Vitamin E protects vitamins C and A, which are easily destructible, from being destroyed.

– Vitamin E is required to produce red blood cells. It is needed by the body to utilise vitamin K, which is needed for normal blood clotting and synthesis of protein in plasma, bone and kidneys.

– Vitamin E is needed by cells to communicate with each other while performing their functions.

What is the daily requirement of Vitamin E?

How much vitamin E is needed by a person depends on his or her age and gender. For children aged 0 months to 13 years, the recommended intake is between 4mg per day to 11mg per day.

From the age of 14, and for pregnant women, the recommended allowance is 15mg per day. For lactating women, the amount increases to 19mg per day.

The safest level of vitamin E for adults is 1500IU (international units) per day from natural sources or 1000IU per day from synthetic supplements.

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