Vitamin E: A Powerful Antioxidant

In depth research on essential vitamins.


Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and one of a number of nutrients called antioxidants. Other well-known antioxidants are vitamin C and beta-carotene. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by toxic by-products released when the body transforms food into energy or fights off infection.

The build up of these by-products over time largely causes the aging process and can lead to the development of several health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and many inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Antioxidants protect us against these conditions and help reduce the damage to our body caused by toxic chemicals and pollutants. Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other important antioxidants can be found in a high-quality liquid multivitamin.

Vitamin E deficiency occurs in people unable to absorb fat properly. Such conditions include pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), cystic fibrosis, and biliary diseases (illnesses of the gallbladder and biliary ducts).

Symptoms of deficiency include muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass, abnormal eye movements, impaired vision, and unsteady gait. Eventually, kidney and liver function fail. Furthermore, severe vitamin E deficiency can be associated with serial miscarriages and premature delivery in pregnant women.

Vitamin E helps prevent arteries from clogging by blocking the conversion of cholesterol into the waxy fat deposits called plaque that stick to blood vessel walls. Vitamin E also thins the blood, allowing blood to flow more easily through arteries even when plaque is present. Studies in the last decade have reported beneficial results from the use of vitamin E supplements to prevent heart disease and other types of cardiovascular disease.

A large, important study of postmenopausal women, for example, suggested that vitamin E might reduce the risk of death from stroke in postmenopausal women. There is some evidence for the use of supplemental vitamin E as a treatment for atherosclerosis. Studies that compared men with a history of stroke that took aspirin with and without vitamin E and found that vitamin E with aspirin significantly reduced the tendency of plaque to stick to vessel walls and decreased the risk of stroke.

Vitamin E can protect against cancer. It has been noted that people with cancer often have lower levels of vitamin E. Plus, studies that observed groups of people over long periods of time suggest that diets rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E, may be connected to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. Supplementation with vitamin E may therefore, reduce your risk of developing this condition.

Vitamin E inhibits the growth of some cancers in test tubes and animals, particularly hormone responsive cancers such as breast and prostate. There is reason to believe, therefore, that, for these types of cancers at least, supplementation may prove beneficial for both prevention and treatment.

More research is needed before coming to any firm conclusions about whether added vitamin E has an impact on cancer and, if so, which forms of the vitamin are most effective for treatment and what optimal dosing would be.

With photodermatitis, a condition that involves an allergic type reaction to the UV rays of the sun, studies comparing treatment with vitamins C and E to no treatment found that the vitamin group became significantly less sensitive to the sun's UV rays.

A few studies suggest that vitamin E may be helpful in both the treatment (pain relief, increased joint mobility) and prevention (at least in men) of osteoarthritis. Studies comparing vitamin E with diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat osteoarthritis found both to be equally effective. Recent studies showed that you could significantly lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease if you took a combination of vitamin C and E in high doses. There are several reasons why vitamin E might help treat Alzheimer's disease. The fat-soluble vitamin readily enters the brain and exerts its antioxidative properties.

Oxidative stress is believed to contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease; therefore, again, it makes at least theoretical sense that antioxidants, like vitamin E, help prevent this condition. Studies have also suggested that vitamin E supplementation improves cognitive performance in healthy individuals and in those with dementia from causes other than Alzheimer's (for example, multiple strokes).

Vitamin E is a very effective option for the reduction of hot flashes in menopausal women. Vitamin E also helps reduce other long term risks associated with menopause such as Alzheimer's, macular degeneration, and cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin E may help to protect your eyes against cataracts and age related macular degeneration, a progressive deterioration in the retina (the back part of the eye), both of which may cause blindness. You need to take vitamin E liquid supplements as a preventive measure if you are a senior or approaching that age group.

Vitamin E is also helpful in ensuring your visual clarity. Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye between the sclera, white outer coat of the eye, and the retina, the back of the eye. Uveitis occurs in acute and chronic forms and those that suffer from Diabetes tend to have low levels of antioxidants. This may explain, in part, their increased risk for conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

Liquid vitamin E supplements and other antioxidants may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other complications in people with diabetes. In particular, antioxidants have been shown to help control blood sugar levels, to lower cholesterol levels in those with type 2 diabetes, and to protect against the complications of retinopathy (eye damage) and nephropathy (kidney damage) in those with type 1 diabetes.

Vitamin also helps prevent pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas. Individuals with pancreatitis have low levels of vitamin E and other antioxidants. This may be due to lack of absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin E) because the enzymes from the pancreas required to absorb fat are not functioning properly. Or, this may be due to poor intake because those with pancreatitis are not eating due to pain and need for bowel rest. Taking vitamin E and other antioxidants may in fact help to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with pancreatitis.

Vitamin E, along with other standard treatments, may also be beneficial for slowing the aging of cells and tissues, protecting from frostbite and other cold-induced injuries, diminishing the negative effects of environmental pollutants, improving anemia, speeding wound and burn healing, reducing scarring, lowering blood pressure, and slowing progression of Parkinson's disease.

Vitamin E has also been found useful in easing premenstrual discomfort, especially breast tenderness, treating lupus, treating depression, replacing necessary nutrients in those with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis.

A good multivitamin is the foundation of health and nutrition. Take a look at our scientific reviews of many of the popular brands for factors such as ingredients, areas of improvement, quality level, and overall value. If you are looking for a high quality liquid multivitamin, we suggest that you take a look at the Multivitamin Product Comparisons.

Balz F. Antioxidant vitamins and heart disease. Presented at the 60th Annual Biology Colloquium, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, February 25, 1999.

Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Ascherio A, et al. Vitamin E consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease in men. N Engl J Med 1993;328:1450-6.

Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Aho K, et al. Serum selenium, serum alpha-tocopherol, and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Epidemiology 2000;11:402-5.

Maes M, De Vos N, Pioli R, et al. Lower serum vitamin E concentrations in major depression. Another marker of lowered antioxidant defenses in that illness. J Affect Disord 2000;58:241-6.

Kharb S. Total free radical trapping antioxidant potential in pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2000;69:23-6.
Polidori MC, Mecocci P, Stahl W, et al. Plasma levels of lipophilic antioxidants in very old patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev 2000;16:15-9.

VERIS Research Information Service. Summary finds superiority of natural vitamin E supplements over synthetic forms. Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients 1999;July:100-5 [review].

Quality Liquid MultiVitamin, Mineral and Whole Food Extract Formula

Liquid Multivitamin Product Review and Comparison Center