Vitamin E is fat soluble and has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are responsible for fighting free radicals. These are electrons that have separated from an atom. Free radicals have been connected with a wide range of health conditions such as cancer and premature ageing. Exposure to free radicals can also occur in the environment. The usual suspects are:
- Cigarette smoke,
- Air pollution, as well as
- Ultraviolet light which comes from the sun.
The human body also requires this vitamin to boost its immune system. This is so that it can protect itself against invading bacteria as well as viruses. Vitamin E helps to widen blood vessels in addition to keeping blood from clotting within these. In addition, cells utilise vitamin E to communicate with each other as well as to perform many vital functions.
How much vitamin E do I require?
The quantity of vitamin E that you need on a daily basis depends on your age:
- Adults and children who are 14 years and older need 15 milligrams (mg) of vitamin E per day.
- Children below 14 need a smaller dose on a daily basis:
- 1 to 3: 6 mg/day
- 4 to 8: 7 mg/day
- 9 to 13: 11 mg/day
- Women who are breastfeeding should take 19 mg of vitamin E per day.
What foods contain vitamin E?
Vitamin E is found predominantly in foods that contain fat. However, make sure that you select foods that are ‘good fats’ as foodstuffs with a high amount of bad cholesterol can lead to you developing heart disease. Some examples of foods which are high in vitamin E are:
- Vegetable oils, as well as
- Wheat germ.
A few of the dark leafy green vegetables – such as Swiss Chard – and fish (such as trout) are also sources of vitamin E.
How do I know if I have a vitamin E deficiency?
Low levels of vitamin E may be responsible for causing:
- Muscle weakness: Vitamin E is vital for the central nervous system. It counts as one of the body’s chief antioxidants. This means that a deficiency in this vitamin results in oxidative stress, which can cause muscle weakness.
- Coordination and walking challenges: A deficiency in vitamin E may be responsible for specific neurons, which are called the Purkinje neurons, to break down. This causes harm to their ability to relay signals.
- Numbness and tingling: Harm to nerve fibres can hinder the nerves from transmitting signals correctly. This results in numbness and tingling. Another name for this is ‘peripheral neuropathy’.
- Vision deterioration: A vitamin E deficiency can be the cause of weakening light receptors in the retina as well as other cells in the eye. This deterioration can lead to loss of vision over time.
- Immune system challenges: Some studies suggest that a lack of vitamin E can prevent the immune cells from working properly. Older adults may be particularly in danger.
Weakness in muscles and coordination challenges are neurological symptoms. These point to damage to the central as well as peripheral nervous systems:
- The term ‘peripheral system’ refers to the network of nerves which are located outside the brain and spinal cord. These neurons relay messages throughout the body.
- The central nervous system sends communication between the brain as well as the spinal cord.
The sheaths of neurons mainly consist of fats. When the body has a lack of vitamin E, it contains fewer antioxidants which protect these fats. As a result, the function of the nervous system breaks down.
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