And it’s taking a disastrous toll on your heart…your immunity…your brain…and more
I have often told you how critical it is to boost your vitamin D intake. And you also know the importance of getting optimal levels of vitamins B and C.
But chances are that you haven’t heard as much about vitamin E.
This essential nutrient is often neglected for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s difficult to measure the amount of E that’s actually circulating in your body. So the government is basically clueless about how much of the vitamin humans really need for optimal health.
But vitamin E is definitely not something to be taken for granted. Research shows this nutrient is crucial for every stage of life—from helping fetuses develop normally to staving off Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important for your heart, eyes, and immune system, and it’s vital for brain health.
So that makes it even more infuriating that misguided government bureaucrats think we get plenty of vitamin E—or even buy into the urban legend that we actually get too much.
Vitamin E deficiency: Subtle but deadly
That’s simply not the case. Vitamin E deficiency occurs with alarming frequency both in the U.S. and around the world. In fact, recent research shows that a shocking 93 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamin E.1
Part of the misunderstanding surrounding E deficiency is that there aren’t readily observable diseases associated with low E intake, as there are for other nutrients. For instance, if you don’t get enough vitamin C, you develop scurvy. Too little vitamin A can cause blindness in children. A lack of vitamin D leads to rickets. And low doses of B vitamins cause exotic diseases like beriberi and pellagra.
The effects of vitamin E deficiency are less obvious. But, in many cases, they’re more deadly. Vitamin E deficiency has serious impacts on the brain and nervous system, as well as the body’s general resistance to infection.
Let’s take a good look at what vitamin E can do for you—and what the government and mainstream medicine are not doing for you in regard to this crucial nutrient.
Why are we so short on E?
As I wrote in the July issue of Insiders’ Cures, the FDA’s view of what even constitutes natural vitamin E intake is flawed. Vitamin E has eight active compounds, but the FDA only recognizes one of those—meaning that many E supplements have 0 percent of the vitamin’s main disease-fighting ingredients.
Furthermore, it takes more than blood measurements to determine if you have adequate levels of vitamin E—or any nutrient, for that matter. To truly discover if your body is getting enough of a nutrient, it’s important to find out how much of it is circulating throughout your tissues, organs, and cells—not just your blood.
Of course, that’s extremely difficult to measure. And that flaw seems to have caught up with us when it comes to vitamin E. For example, blood levels of vitamin E often rise with age, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the E circulating in our blood is being delivered to the cells that need it.
To make matters even more complicated, some critics have raised unnecessary false alarms about “excessive” vitamin E, based upon a flawed study several years ago. This myth has been given more lives than the proverbial cat through endless repetition by “experts” who don’t seem to understand basic human nutrition and are not up to date on vitamin E science.
Many of these same “experts” actually believe that vitamin E deficiency does not occur—despite the scientific evidence. Subsequently, the government assumes there are no shortfalls with vitamin E intake in the general population, and has set the recommended daily allowance of E at a dangerously low level.
I’ll tell you how much you really should be getting in just a moment. But first, let’s take a closer look at the critical roles vitamin E plays in the body.
Why you need E
A review of multiple studies published in the September issue of Advances in Nutrition revealed some significant findings about the importance of vitamin E.2
Fetus and child development. It’s critical for pregnant women to consume adequate vitamin E because it’s essential for normal fetal development. Lack of vitamin E during pregnancy is associated with anemia, infections, stunting, and overall poor outcomes for both infant and mother. During childhood, not getting enough E can cause neurological disorders, along with abnormalities of skeletal and heart muscles.3
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Later in life, vitamin E appears to have an important role in preventing or managing Alzheimer’s and dementia. A recent study revealed that taking 2,000 IU of vitamin E per day reduced symptoms of dementia and improved cognitive function in a group of older Americans. The “go-to” Alzheimer’s drug, memantine, showed no effect in this study. In fact, the drug even appeared to negate the benefits of vitamin E in the people who received both the drug and the nutrient.4
Of course, the 2,000 IU of vitamin E used in the study is much higher than the government’s recommended daily allowance (which I will address shortly).
Cognition and brain function. Throughout life, there is evidence that vitamin E is important for supporting the brain and improving cognition. In fact, an interesting study reported that people who have higher levels of vitamin E (together with B, C, and D) throughout their lives not only have better cognitive function—they actually have bigger brains when they’re older.5
Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that vitamin E appears to protect the functions of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and eye health, heart health, and supporting a balanced immune system. One study cited in the Advances in Nutrition review showed that people who had the highest levels of DHA—a component of omega-3s—cut their risk of dementia nearly in half.
The right dosage
So now for the million-dollar question: How much vitamin E do you need each day?
The government currently recommends 15 mg per day for adults. But broad surveys show that 90 percent of men and 96 percent of women don’t even consume this minimal amount.3 Not to mention that research indicates that the optimal daily intake should be much higher.
Consequently, I recommend 50 mg of vitamin E per day. Of course, this amount is much smaller than the therapeutic dose used in the dementia study I discussed above. However, my recommendation is based on a general dose for optimal health. (If you currently suffer from dementia and are interested in vitamin E therapy, you should consult and work closely with a qualified medical professional who understands nutritional supplementation.)
You can also incorporate more vitamin E-rich foods into your diet. Some of the best sources are nuts, seeds, spinach, and eggs. (Note that the vitamin E in eggs is found in the yolk. So be sure to eat the whole egg—not just the white.) All of these foods (except spinach) are also good sources of essential fatty acids, which, as I mentioned earlier, work with vitamin E to improve health on many levels.
So, this month, go ahead and roast some chestnuts over an open fire. And put all those sweet nutcrackers to good use. Your body and your brain will thank you.
1Fulgoni VL 3rd, et al. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr. 2011;141:1847-54.
2Traber MG. Vitamin E Inadequacy in Humans: Causes and Consequences. Adv Nutr September 2014 Adv Nutr vol. 5: 503-514, 2014.
3Linus Pauling Institute. Vitamin E intake critical during “the first 1000 days. “http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/news/vitaminE1000days.html. Accessed October 20, 2014.
4Dysken MW, et al. Effect of Vitamin E and Memantine on Functional Decline in Alzheimer Disease – The TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2014; 311(1): 33-34.
5Bowman GL, et al. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology January 24, 2012 vol. 78 no. 4 241-249.