Getting To Know Your Vitamin E Family   

Getting To Know Your Vitamin E Family

Although vitamin E was first discovered in 1922, it was only in the last decade that the public began to be educated about the fact that vitamin E is not a single vitamin but is actually composed of eight members. These members belong either to a sub-family of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) or a sub-family of four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta).

4 Tocopherols + 4 Tocotrienols = VITAMIN E FAMILY
     alpha                      alpha               (8 members)
     beta                       beta  
     gamma                   gamma
     delta                      delta

Generally, most "vitamin E" supplements available in the market refer to only one member of the E family and that is d-alpha tocopherol Although alpha tocopherol is the best known, its other seven members are also important It was only recently that scientists found how these seven overlooked members of the E-family have extremely important functions in promoting heart health as well as in helping to prevent some cancers and numerous diseases.

Vitamin E from food source
Our food contains all eight compounds of vitamin E, but gamma tocopherol is actually the most commonly occurring natural form of vitamin E in the diet. Gamma tocopherol in particular also has the ability to protect against nitrogen based free radicals, which alpha tocopherol cannot do.
Nitrogen free radicals play an important role in diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including cancer, heart disease and degenerative brain disorders.

How vitamin E helps prevent cancer
Vitamin E being a potent fat-soluble antioxidant protects the cell membranes and nucleus membranes that protect the DNA and vital enzymes. Protection of the DNA is critical for reducing the risk of cancer. Vitamin E may also block the formation of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens formed in the stomach from nitrites consumed in the diet. It may also protect against the development of cancers by enhancing immune function, Vitamin E supplementation significantly lowers the risk of prostate cancer according to the report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In the study, Olli P. Heinonen M.D.D.Sc., and his colleagues at the University of Helsinki followed the health of 29,000 men for six years. The men taking vitamin E were found to be prostate cancer and 41 percent likely to die from the disease if they did develop it. These beneficial effects were seen within two years of starting the supplementation.

The anticancer effects of tocotrienols have garnered a lot of attention. One of the innate protectors against cancer is a process known as "apoptosis." Apoptosis is an encoded suicide program designed to protect cells from becoming cancerous. When this process fails, cancer develops. Tocotrienols effectively promote apoptosis with delta-tocotrienol being twice as potent as gamma tocotrienol.

Another anticancer mechanism involves inhibiting enzymes within cancer cells that stimulate them to replicate. Gamma tocotrienol was shown to be three times more potent in inhibiting growth of human breast cancer cultured cells than chemotherapy drug tamoxifen.

The American Cancer Society released the results of a long term study that evaluated the effect of regular use of vitamin C and vitamin E supplements on bladder cancer mortality in almost 1,000,000 adults in the U.S. The study, conducted between the years 1982 to 1998, found that subjects who regularly consumed a vitamin E supplement for longer than 10 years had a reduced risk of death from bladder cancer.

How vitamin E helps protect the heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and woman in most countries. Preliminary research has led to a widely held belief that vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease. Researchers have reported that oxidative changes to LDL - cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) promote blockages (atherosclerosis) in coronary arteries that may lead to heart attacks. Vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease by limiting the oxidation of LDL - cholesterol.

Vitamin E may also help prevent the formation of blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack. Observational studies have associated lower rates of heart disease with higher vitamin E intake. A study of approximately 90,000 nurses suggested that the incidence of heart disease was 30 percent to 40 percent lower among nurses with the highest intake of vitamin E from diet and supplements. Researchers found that the apparent benefit was mainly associated with intake of vitamin E from dietary supplements. A 1994 review of 5,133 Finnish men and women aged 30-69 years also suggested that increased dietary intake of vitamin E was associated with decreased mortality (death) from heart disease.

Other studies on vitamin E
Studies are underway to determine whether vitamin E, through its ability to limit production of free radicals, might help prevent or delay the development of those chronic diseases. Vitamin E has also been shown to play a role in immune function, in DNA repair, and other metabolic processes.

Other studies have linked low levels of vitamin E to an increased risk of many different kinds of cancer. In fact, Katalin G. Losonczy, a researcher with the National Institute of Ageing, studied the consumption of vitamin E among 11,798 people over the age of 65. She found that those who took vitamin E supplements daily were 41 percent less likely to have died from cancer and 40 percent less likely to have died from heart disease, than people who did not take vitamin E.

Vitamin E Supplements
Based on all the current studies done on vitamin E, it makes good sense to look for a supplement, which has all eight members. These not only form an important part of the body's antioxidant system, but also some of the members have other functions, which are completely unrelated to their role as an antioxidant. In a nutshell, the advantage of taking the whole family of vitamin E is that they work synergistically together to provide the full spectrum of benefits.

Happy reading,

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