Vitamin E – one of the best vitamins for brain and bedroom health

A field of sunflowers. Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E.Decades of research shows that a lack of vitamin E can contribute to brain diseases. This essential vitamin helps reduce the risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, and helps stop blood vessels clogging, including those that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Vitamin E also helps stop the fat in our brains from going rancid, so we can think, focus and remember better. Our brains are mostly made of fat, and the quality of this fat is very important.

These are just a few reasons why I think vitamin E is one of the best brain vitamins – and I’m probably not alone. Best-selling author and researcher Jean Carper lists in her book, Your Miracle Brain, the names of a number of doctors around the world who research vitamin E and take it daily as a supplement, because they believe in the benefits of vitamin E for brain health.

As well as being known as a great brain vitamin, vitamin E has been referred to as the “sex vitamin”. Low levels can cause impotence, low sex drive and infertility. Boosting vitamin E to healthy levels can help treat these problems. So we can think of this vital nutrient as the “Brain and Bedroom Vitamin”.

The best food sources of vitamin E are some vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Light, heat, oxygen, and freezing can all destroy vitamin E, and many people probably don’t eat enough high vitamin E foods. These are likely to be some reasons why, according to The National Institutes of Health in USA, “Three national surveys…have found that the diets of most Americans provide less than the RDA [Recommended Dietary Allowance] levels of vitamin E.” In fact the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University says, “It has been estimated that more than 90% of Americans do not meet daily dietary recommendations for vitamin E.”

What is vitamin E used for in the body?
What evidence is there that vitamin E helps improve our brain?
How much vitamin E should we take each day?
Who needs extra vitamin E?
What foods are high in vitamin E?
What destroys or reduces the effectiveness of vitamin E?
What are some food storage and cooking tips to preserve vitamin E?
What are the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency?
Can taking high amounts of vitamin E cause side effects?
Who is most at risk of vitamin E deficiency?
Who should avoid taking a vitamin E supplement?

What is vitamin E used for in the body?

According to Carper, ways vitamin E saves our brain include:

  • being an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect our bodies’ cells – including brain cells – from damage. Our brain is about 60% fat. Helping stop the fat in our brain from oxidizing (going rancid) by getting enough vitamin E is vital for our brains to function well.
  • controlling the transmission of messages within and between cells. Vitamin E helps protect the fat in our cells from damage. Damaged or rancid cell membranes cause confused messages. This can result in mental problems such as poor memory and concentration.
  • reducing clogging of our blood vessels with fatty deposits. This includes blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Clogged blood vessels are a leading cause of stroke, so vitamin E helps reduce the risk of this health problem.
  • helping treat and prevent diseases of the brain and nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Vitamin E helps stop inflammation, which can contribute to brain diseases.

Other uses of vitamin E include:

  • boosting low sex drive and treating impotence in men.
  • boosting fertility and reproduction. Vitamin E can help treat infertility.
  • helping treat diabetes and its complications.
  • helping heal wounds, burns, scars, sunburn, dry and flaky skin and other skin problems. Vitamin E is often added to skin creams and body lotions.
  • possibly helping prevent or delay diseases linked to molecules in our bodies called free radicals. Free radicals damage cells and might contribute to some diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
  • a role in stopping blood from clotting (thins the blood). Blood clots can cause strokes and heart attacks.
  • boosting the immune system, so help us fight diseases.
  • treating and preventing vitamin E deficiency in premature or low-birth weight infants.

What evidence is there that vitamin E helps improve our brain?

Many studies have been done on the effects of vitamin E on our brain. Below are a few that found vitamin E can have positive results.

A US study of nearly 5,000 senior citizens found increasing levels of blood serum levels of vitamin E enhanced memory. The results were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1999.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in April 1997 found vitamin E was as good as a prescription drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease, and vitamin E was safer. Six universities were involved with the research, including the University of California, Columbia, and Harvard University.

Peter Lavelle reports in an article in ABC Health & Wellbeing (that’s reviewed by Professor Henry Brodaty) that:

“There is epidemiological evidence from large population studies suggesting that people who have higher intakes or levels of Vitamin E (and to a lesser extent, Vitamin C) have less likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.”

How much vitamin E should we receive each day?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for females (both pregnant and non-pregnant) and males aged 14 years and over is 15 milligrams (mg) (about 22 international units (IU)) a day. The RDA for lactating women is 19 mg (about 28 IU) a day. These figures are from the National Institutes of Health in USA.

It’s important to note that, according to the LPI,

“… the latest RDA for vitamin E continues to be based on the prevention of deficiency symptoms rather than on health promotion and prevention of chronic disease.”

Many health experts and organizations recommend much higher amounts than the RDA for vitamin E to help treat and prevent health problems. The dose can vary depending on different things, such as the type of health problem, the results of scientific research, and a health expert’s personal experience in treating and preventing health problems using vitamin E.

The LPI is an example of an organization that recommends a different dose of vitamin E to the RDA. It says:

“Scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute feel there exists credible evidence that taking a supplement of 200 IU (134 mg) of natural source d-alpha-tocopherol (RRR-alpha-tocopherol) [a type of natural vitamin E] daily with a meal may help protect adults from chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and some types of cancer. The amount of alpha-tocopherol required for such beneficial effects appears to be much greater than that which could be achieved through diet alone.”

Read WebMD’s list of doses of vitamin E that have been studied in scientific research for various health problems. The list is under the heading “Dosing”.

Who needs extra vitamin E?

Some people require more than the RDA for vitamin E for good health. Dr. H. Winter Griffith says in The Vitamin Fact File that people who need extra vitamin E are those:

  • who drink large amounts of alcohol and/or take large amounts of other drugs
  • over 55-years-old
  • with increased nutritional requirements
  • who have recent severe burns or injuries
  • who have a chronic wasting illness
  • who feel overly stressed for a long time
  • who have recently had surgery
  • with hyperthyroidism
  • with part of the gastrointestinal tract surgically removed

What foods are high in vitamin E?

Some foods high in vitamin E, and the amount of vitamin E they contain (in milligrams (mg)), are:

  • wheat germ oil (best source), 1 tablespoon: 20 mg
  • almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce (about 28 grams): 7 mg
  • sunflower seeds, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 6 mg
  • sunflower oil , 1 tablespoon: 6 mg
  • safflower oil, 1 tablespoon: 5 mg
  • hazelnuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 4 mg

The above figures are from the National Institutes of Health in USA.

Breakfast cereals with added vitamin E can also be good sources of this vitamin.

What destroys or reduces the effectiveness of vitamin E?

Vitamin E is sensitive to:

  • heat, so cooking. Up to nearly 60% of vitamin E can be lost in cooking, says Dr. Griffith.
  • freezing – there is some loss of vitamin E during freezer storage.
  • sunlight – vitamin E decomposes in sunlight.
  • oxygen, so exposure to air.

What are some food storage and cooking tips to conserve vitamin E?

  • Store vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds in airtight containers away from sunlight, heat and moisture, such as in a dark pantry or cupboard
  • Eat nuts and seeds raw instead of cooked
  • Heat can destroy vitamin E, so don’t fry vitamin E-rich foods at high temperatures

What are the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency?

Signs and symptoms of too little vitamin E can range from minor to severe and can include:

  • nervous system problems due to poor nerve conduction. Problems include:
  • myopathy (muscle weakness)
  • ataxia. This causes a lack of coordination of muscles movements. Symptoms include problems with balance and coordination.
  • peripheral neuropathy. This is damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system. Common symptoms are numbness, tingling and/or burning hands and/or feet.

Other health problems that a lack of vitamin E can cause include:

  • low sex drive
  • decreased sexual performance
  • infertility
  • irritability
  • lack of energy
  • feeling very tired after light exercise
  • apathy
  • easy bruising
  • slow wound healing
  • varicose veins
  • immune system problems. The immune system is the part of the body that fights disease.
  • retinopathy. This is a disease of the retina in the eye that can cause loss of eyesight and eventually lead to blindness.

According to WebMD, a severe long-term lack of vitamin E might cause:

  • dementia
  • complete blindness
  • cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart beat rate)

Can taking high amounts of vitamin E cause side effects?

The LPI says:

  • “Few side effects have been noted in adults taking supplements of less than 2,000 mg of alpha-tocopherol daily.” Alpha-tocopherol is the most common type of natural vitamin E supplement on the market. We can buy both natural and synthetic vitamin E.
  • Taking 400 IU/day of vitamin E has been found to speed-up the rate of retinitis pigmentosa (an eye disease) that is not linked with vitamin E deficiency.
  • Taking very high doses of vitamin E might cause problems with blood clotting, so possibly lead to haemorrhaging (too much blood loss from the body) in some people.
  • Too little research has been done on the side effects of long-term use of natural vitamin E supplements.

Dr. Griffith says signs and symptoms of vitamin E overdose/toxicity might include:

  • problems with sexual function
  • a tendency to bleed
  • a change in immunity
  • a reduction in vitamin A stores in the body
  • a change in metabolism of thyroid, pituitary and adrenal hormones

Authors Briggs et al. of the book Food and Nutrition in Australia say vitamin E is relatively non-toxic, but some bad effects have been found with daily intakes of 300 mg of synthetic vitamin E. Symptoms include:

  • severe flu
  • malaise (a general feeling of being unwell)
  • feeling too tired
  • minor gut problems

An unbalanced ratio of vitamins E and K might cause people to have blood clotting problems.

Who is most at risk of vitamin E deficiency?

People most at risk of being low in vitamin E include:

  • those who often drink a lot of alcohol. Alcohol reduces vitamin-E stores in the liver.
  • smokers. Cigarettes decrease the absorption of vitamin E. Smokers can need more vitamin E than non-smokers.
  • those on low-fat diets. This is because we need to eat enough fat to absorb vitamin E.
  • those who don’t eat enough foods high in vitamin E.
  • those with malnutrition.
  • those who cannot absorb fat properly, such as people with cystic fibrosis.
  • premature babies with a very low birth weight.
  • those with a rare, inherited health problem called ataxia and vitamin E deficiency (AVED).

Who should avoid taking a vitamin E supplement?

Not enough is known about the effect of vitamin E supplements on the unborn baby during pregnancy, says WebMD. Talk to your health care provider before taking vitamin E if you are, or are trying to get, pregnant.

Before taking vitamin E supplements, talk to a relevant health professional if any of the below interactions could apply to you.

WebMD warns us to be cautious if we take any of the following because they may interact with vitamin E:

  • medications that slow blood clotting (anticoagulant /antiplatelet drugs) such as aspirin and warfarin. Both vitamin E and these medications slow down blood clotting, so taking the two together can strengthen the effect of these medications. This can lead to a greater chance of bruising and bleeding.
  • cholesterol lowering medications (Statins)
  • the cancer medications chemotherapy and Cyclosporine
  • medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
  • vitamin B3 (niacin)

The University of Maryland Medical Center lists the following possible interactions with vitamin E:

  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • high blood pressure medications called beta-blockers
  • hormone replacement therapy
  • the worm treatment Mebendazole
  • the cancer treatment Tamoxifen
  • the weight loss product Orlistat (also known as alli)
  • antipsychotic medications
  • the HIV and AIDS medication AZT

WebMD says avoid taking a vitamin E supplement if you have:

  • diabetes and/or heart disease. Don’t take 400 IU or more of vitamin E daily.
  • a bleeding disorder. Vitamin E might worsen this health problem.
  • an eye problem called retinitis pigmentosa.
  • head and neck cancer. Don’t take 400 IU or more of vitamin E each day.
  • surgery scheduled soon, including the heart procedure angioplasty. Stop using vitamin E at least 2 weeks before surgery.
  • low levels of a vitamin K (vitamin K deficiency). Vitamin E might worsen blood clotting problems in people low in vitamin K.

People with rheumatic fever should avoid taking high amounts of vitamin E, says nutritionist Patrick Holford.

written by Nyomi Graef

References:
Carper, J, 2000, Your Miracle Brain, New York, USA: HarperCollins

Carter, W, 2005, Home Doctor: Know Your Body & Look After It, Dingley, Australia: Hinkler Books

Higdon, J, 2004, Vitamin E, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University,
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminE/

Holford, P, 1992, Optimum Nutrition, London, UK: ION Press

Insel, P M et al., 1994, Core Concepts in Health, Brief Seventh Edition, Mountain View, USA: Mayfield Publishing Company

Lavelle, P, 2006, Alzheimer’s disease, ABC Health & Wellbeing,
http://www.abc.net.au/health/library/stories/2006/05/25/1829495.htm#.UGpJ1VF32So

Maes, M et al., 2000, Lower serum vitamin E concentrations in major depression. Another marker of lowered antioxidant defenses in that illness, Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 58, Iss. 3, 241-246,
http://biopsychiatry.com/vitedep.htm

Sano, M et al., 1997, A controlled trial of Selegiline, alpha-tocopherol, or both as treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 336, No. 17, 1216-1222,
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199704243361704

Somerville, R (Ed.), 1997, The Alternative Advisor, Virginia, USA: Time-Life

Suckow, M A, (Ed.) et al., 2006, The Laboratory Rat (2nd ed.), London, UK: Elsevier Inc.

Use Your Food to Boost Your Brain (Nutritional Modifications to Boost IQ), 2011, Genius Intelligence,
http://www.geniusintelligence.com/nutritionmod.htm

Vitamin E, 2009, University of Maryland Medical Center,
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/vitamin-e-000341.htm

Vitamin E, 2009, WebMD,
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-954-vitamin%20e.aspx?activeIngredientId=954&activeIngredientName=vitamin%20e

Vitamin E, 2010, MedlinePlus,
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002406.htm

Vitamin E, 2010, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health,
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/

Vitamin E lack linked to memory loss, 1999, Life Extension Magazine,
http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag99/sept99_medup.html#2

Wahlqvist, M L, (Ed.), 1988, Food and Nutrition in Australia (3rd ed.), Melbourne, Australia: Thomas Nelson

Winter Griffith, H, 1995, The Vitamin Fact File, London, UK: Diamond Books

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2 Responses to “Vitamin E – one of the best vitamins for brain and bedroom health”

  1. Great article. Most of my questions have been answered. I just started taking vitamin E with 400 IU. Thanks a lot.

  2. Hashmi says:

    Absolutely written content material , appreciate it for selective information.

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