What Is Vitamin E Good For?

By Michelle Kerns

Healthy adults need approximately 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily, but fewer than 10 percent of Americans reach this daily requirement, says the Linus Pauling Institute. Some scientific studies indicate that consuming enough of the vitamin can prevent or treat a variety of medical conditions, but more research is needed. There are two ways to obtain vitamin E: from foods, such as vegetable oils, nuts like almonds, avocados and spinach; or with dietary supplements. However, too much vitamin E may be harmful. Do not attempt to self-treat any health problem with a high intake of vitamin E until you've spoken to your doctor.

May Help Treat and Prevent Anemia

As an antioxidant, vitamin E protects the outer membrane of red blood cells from damage by free radical compounds. People who are deficient in vitamin E don't have this protection and are at a greater risk of hemolytic anemia, in which the red blood cells are too fragile to function properly. Hemolytic anemia is caused by too little vitamin E in the diet, digestive problems or inherited diseases. A 2011 review article published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences concluded that increasing an anemic person's intake of vitamin E may be an effect treatment.

Might Improve Immune Health in the Elderly

An article published in Immunological Reviews in 2005 concluded that there is sufficient evidence that a high intake of vitamin E increases an elderly person's number of T cells. These are the immune system cells responsible for regulating your body's response to infection and destroying potentially harmful cells or germs. The nutrient also suppresses the production of a compound that inhibits T cell activity. This effect could explain why vitamin E supplementation appears to lower an elderly person's risk of upper respiratory infections and, in the laboratory, prevents flu in older mice. Other immune effects of vitamin E aren't yet known; it is also unknown if the nutrient produces the same benefits in younger people.

Possibly Protects Skin Against UV Light

Studies conducted in the 1990s indicated that people supplementing with both vitamin E and another antioxidant nutrient, vitamin C, were significantly less likely to get sunburns, suggesting that the vitamins were able to block the function of free radicals produced by ultraviolet, or UV, light exposure. Supplementing with only one or the other vitamin, however, did not yield the same benefit. Research published in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine in 2003 reported similar results, but subsequent studies haven't found the same UV light protection.

Could Slow Alzheimer's Disease Progression

People who have mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease might benefit from supplemental vitamin E, according to the results of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014. The subjects taking extra vitamin E experienced a slower rate of functional decline, resulting in less time required of caregivers. It's not yet known if a high vitamin E intake can prevent Alzheimer's disease, but the University of Michigan Health System says the vitamin's antioxidant properties may be vital to the preservation of nervous system health. If you lack vitamin E, you're more likely to experience neuron breakdown over time.

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