All about Vitamin E: benefits, sources and tips

Vitamin E, known scientifically as tocopherol, is a fat-soluble nutrient essential for numerous bodily functions. It plays a crucial role as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that can harm cells and contribute to ageing and the development of certain diseases. Naturally present in many foods, vitamin E is also available as a supplement and is a popular ingredient in skincare products.

Benefits of Vitamin E

Antioxidant protection

One of the most important roles of vitamin E is its ability to act as a powerful antioxidant. It helps protect cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals, playing a vital role in maintaining skin and eye health, as well as protecting against heart disease and certain types of cancer. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that vitamin E supplementation could significantly reduce the risk of heart disease in individuals with a history of heart disease or at high risk.

Immune system support

Vitamin E is essential for maintaining a strong immune system, especially in older adults. It helps the body fight off viruses and bacteria by boosting the body’s natural defences.

Skin and eye health

Thanks to its antioxidant properties, vitamin E plays a key role in skin and eye health. It aids in skin repair, provides protection against UV rays, and reduces the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Alzheimer’s and Vitamin E

Other research suggests that vitamin E may offer protection against some chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. A study in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association showed that high doses of vitamin E can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

How to reach the recommended daily intake

The recommended daily intake of vitamin E varies based on age, sex, and other health factors. For most adults, it is 15 mg (or 22.4 IU). A balanced diet rich in vegetable oils (such as sunflower, hazelnut, and almond oil), nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables can help meet this amount. For those who struggle to get enough vitamin E from their diet, supplements may be an option, but it is important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplement.

Side effects of Vitamin E

While vitamin E is generally considered safe, excessive intake, especially in supplement form, can lead to side effects such as nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, fatigue, and in rare cases, it can interfere with certain medications and increase the risk of bleeding. It is crucial not to exceed the recommended daily intake without medical advice.

Food sources of Vitamin E

For those looking to incorporate more vitamin E into their diet, focus on foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, green vegetables, and fruits like avocado. These foods not only provide the necessary dose of vitamin E but also offer a wide range of beneficial nutrients for overall health.

Vitamin E and skincare

Vitamin E is also renowned for its skincare benefits, being a common ingredient in creams, lotions, and serums. It can help reduce the appearance of scars, hydrate the skin, and combat signs of ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Hydration and skin repair

Vitamin E is also known for its moisturising properties. It can help strengthen the skin's natural barrier, retaining moisture for softer, more supple, and hydrated skin. Additionally, its ability to accelerate the skin’s repair process makes it useful for reducing the appearance of scars and acne marks.

Protection against sun damage

Although vitamin E is not a sunscreen itself, when combined with vitamin C, it can offer additional protection against UV damage. This combination helps neutralise free radicals generated by sun exposure, reducing the risk of photoageing and skin cancers.

The history of Vitamin E

Did you know that vitamin E was accidentally discovered in 1922 by Herbert McLean Evans and Katherine Scott Bishop during fertility research on rats? They observed that without this vitamin, the rats could not reproduce, highlighting its crucial importance for reproductive health.