Researchers are increasingly interested in vitamin E. They see the potential in this vitamin to slow down aging. Vitamin E is often referred to as the “anti-aging vitamin”. In this article I summarize what is known about vitamin E and its anti-aging effects.
Vitamin E comes in eight forms: four tocopherols (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta) and four tocotrienols, with the same four names. Alpha-tocopherol is best absorbed by cells and is therefore considered to be the most important form of vitamin E to date.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant
One of the explanations why vitamin E can delay aging is because it is an antioxidant. What does that mean? Antioxidants are responsible for protecting cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage DNA, RNA and proteins in the human body, which contribute to the development of diseases. The daily intake of vitamin E from the diet is a necessary condition for optimal functioning of the antioxidant system. If you want to know more about how the antioxidant system works, read this article.
Vitamin E can prevent age-related macular degeneration
The macula is the part of the retina with a diameter of a few millimetres that is responsible for visual acuity. For example, we need a healthy macula to be able to read, drive and view details of objects. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a dystrophy that occurs in the centre of the macula.
Laboratory studies, animal studies and epidemiological studies show that specific bioactive substances can have a prophylactic effect on the macula of the eye. Scientists point out that the regular intake of vitamin E is necessary for a healthy macula. For example, a large-scale study on AMD showed that the risk of AMD was reduced by as much as 82% in people with high levels of vitamin E in their blood compared to those with low levels of this vitamin.
If you want to learn more about diet and eye health, read this article.
Vitamin E in care products
Vitamin E is necessary to maintain good skin health. Without adequate storage of vitamin E, skin aging accelerates. Vitamin E is well absorbed by the skin. That is why it is often used in, for example, facial creams. Although molecules in the vitamin E family can absorb light in the UVB spectrum, the “sun protection” activity of vitamin E is considered limited because it cannot absorb UVA light or light in higher wavelengths of the UVB spectrum. The primary role of vitamin E as an ingredient in cosmetics is as an antioxidant. This means that vitamin E can limit oxidative damage caused by UV radiation. The effect becomes stronger when it is used together with vitamin C.
Vitamin E and dementia
The results of scientific studies on the effect of vitamin E on neurological damage (and therefore also dementia) are not consistent. Scientists agree that more research is needed. But that’s what they always say. They did find a link between vitamin E intake and the risk of cognitive decline. If you take enough vitamin E through food, the chance that you will become demented is significantly lower. But again, more research is needed, and the scientists are cautious about making big health claims.
How much vitamin E do we need daily?
In the Netherlands there is no recommended daily allowance for vitamin E. The adequate intake is considered to be in the range of 11 mg (adult women) – to 13 mg (adult men) per day.
Vitamin E content is sometimes indicated on the label of supplements in international units (IU); 1 IU = 0.67 milligrams of vitamin E.
Severe vitamin E deficiencies are not common. A severe vitamin E deficiency can lead to anaemia, neurological symptoms and muscle weakness.
The Best Sources of Vitamin E
One tablespoon of wheat germ oil (15 ml) contains 18 mg of vitamin E. Wheat germ oil is really the best source of this vitamin. Other good sources of vitamin E include:
Sunflower oil: 9.5 mg vitamin E per tablespoon;
Sunflower seeds: 9.5 mg vitamin E per 25 g;
Almonds: 7 mg vitamin E per 25 g;
Hazelnut oil: 6.5 mg per tablespoon.