Vitamin E is actually a compound made of eight separate components. Together, these unique molecules combine to make up one of the most essential vitamins in your body. While it’s fairly easy to get vitamin E from an average diet, many people still experience some form of mild vitamin E deficiency at some point during their lives. Supplementing with vitamin E can help support cognitive and physical health.
Vitamin E is a unique vitamin when compared to its counterpart, vitamin C, because it is fat-soluble where vitamin C is water-soluble. Since your cell membranes are largely comprised of fats, it is an important element in maintaining cell health. Cell membranes are, among other things, like moats that guard the cell’s nucleus, so the stronger your cell membranes, the healthier your cells. Your brain, in particular, is also comprised of fatty tissues that can benefit from vitamin E.
Vitamin E can help protect your brain from damage by influencing the release of certain chemicals like 12-lipoxygenase, which is often released following a brain injury and has been linked to cell death. This, among other properties, make it a neuroprotective, meaning that it can effectively reduce neuronal damage from a variety of sources, including glutamate-related neurotoxicity. Glutamate is a common, natural chemical that can nonetheless be extremely detrimental to brain health if levels are too high for too long. Vitamin E can also help protect against strokes, especially if you are a smoker; stroke is one of the leading causes of brain damage and neuronal injury.
Vitamin E has been studied as a way to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. When taken in conjunction with prescribed medication, patients with the disease saw up to a 19% slower rate of cognitive decline. Vitamin E, along with other antioxidants, is thought to help slow Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the rate of oxidation in the body, a major cause of the disease’s symptoms. Even those without Alzheimer’s disease can benefit from vitamin E. In a study conducted on elderly subjects, vitamin E outperformed vitamin C and beta-carotene in preventing cognitive decline, showing up to a 36% reduction in cognitive decline.
Vitamin E can also help reduce stress, especially when used in conjunction with vitamin C. Vitamin E can reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can lead to widespread damage if left unchecked. This has been shown in studies conducted on rats, cows, buffalos, and humans – all of the studies showed demonstrable reduction of stress symptoms and cortisol levels when vitamin E was administered.[6-8] Similarly, a known genetic mutation that reduces vitamin E absorption in the brain is also related to increased anxiety levels.
One of vitamin E’s most important functions is related to heart health. Cardiovascular health cannot be overstated as an important part of overall health, including cognitive health. After all, your heart is the engine of your body, delivering blood, nutrients, and oxygen throughout your entire body, including your brain.
One way that vitamin E protects your heart is by reducing the oxidation of LDL, which is known as “bad cholesterol”: when LDL oxidizes, it becomes “sticky” and contributes to arterial plaque build-up. While both men and women can see the cardiovascular benefits of vitamin E, it is particularly robust in females. In women, vitamin E supplementation can reduce heart attack risk by up to 34%. Vitamin E can also be a helpful supplement for treating a variety of physical ailments like ulcerative colitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and cataracts.[11,12]
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