Vitamin E is best known for its antioxidant properties, and as an antioxidant works to reduce cellular damage caused by free radicals.
Various studies indicate that it may help protect us from the early onset of heart disease, cancer and other tumors, cataracts and diabetes. There are also some indications that it may help with PMS, athletic recovery time and even epilepsy.
Concerning heart disease, vitamin E protects the fats in LDL (low density lipoproteins) from oxidation. LDLs transport cholesterol from the liver to the body tissues. Oxidized LDLs have been implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases.
By neutralizing free radicals LDL oxidation is prevented. The bad news is that vitamin E loses its antioxidant properties when it 'attacks' free radicals. The good news is other antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C can restore its oxidative powers.
This is one example illustrating the fact that antioxidants work better in tandem than alone.
Vitamin E consumption is also associated with decreased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) as well as death from heart attack in both men and women.
The CHAOS study, a placebo-controlled trial in Great Britain found that supplementing heart disease patients with either 400 or 800 IU of synthetic alpha-tocopherol (a particular type of E) for an average of 18 months resulted in a 77% reduction in nonfatal heart attacks.
Vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopheryl succinate has shown promise in the fight against cancer. Cancer cells proliferate quickly and are resistant to programmed cell death.
Alpha-tocopheryl succinate can inhibit cell proliferation in some forms of cancer. In other words, this form of vitamin E induces cancer cell death.
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Studies involving supplementation of vitamin E in relation to diabetes have been conflicting. Alpha-tocopherol supplementation of individuals with diabetes has been proposed because diabetes appears to increase oxidative stress and because cardiovascular complications, including heart attack and stroke are among the leading causes of death in diabetics.
More clinical studies are needed but there is evidence to suggest that vitamin E supplementation can be beneficial to those suffering with diabetes.
Because the brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidation stress antioxidant vitamins have been proposed to be beneficial in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
One large trial demonstrated that supplementing with 2,000 IU of synthetic alpha-tocopherol daily for extended periods of time, (two years in the case of this study) significantly slows the progression of Alzheimer's dementia.
Vitamin E seems to have its greatest benefits in relation to heart health. But as indicated above it also provides health benefits in many other arenas including cancer, diabetes and dementia to name a few of the more important ones.
At least in the case of heart disease vitamin E might have its greatest effects when ingested with other antioxidants.
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