Supplementation is a controversial subject in today’s fitness industry. People are constantly told they’re deficient in this, or should be taking more of that. In some cases supplementation can help, and may be necessary. In other cases it’s nothing more than a waste of money.
One of the biggest supplement concerns people have revolves around vitamins and depending on your diet structure, a vitamin deficiency may be a real concern.
In today’s article, we’re going to tackle vitamin E, what it is, what it does, and whether or not you need to be supplementing with it.
What is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is actually a term used to describe eight different molecules (four tocopherols and four tocotrienols), with alpha tocopherol being the most prevalent in the body. Vitamin E works mainly as an antioxidant, helping to neutralize free-radicals. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that can damage health cells in the body and can possibly contribute to diseases.
Because the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E is so low, and can be found prevalently in many foods, the effects of a deficiency are not really known. Vitamin E can be taken in pill form, or in liquid form as vitamin E oil.
Vitamin E oil has been used in the skincare industry for decades. It’s commonly found in sunscreens, anti-aging creams, and lotions. It can be used to treat dry skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, sunburns, scars, stretch marks, and other skin issues.
Since it’s an antioxidant, it works by blocking free radicals, which play a part in the aging process. It also works to help rejuvenate and repair damaged cells.
What the Science Says About Vitamin E Supplementation
Because of its antioxidant properties, many experts assume believed that supplementing with vitamin E would help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However a 2010 meta-analysis found that while vitamin E reduced ischemic stroke by 10 percent, it increased the risk of hemorrhagic stroke by 22 percent.
Other studies have shown similar negative results. A 2007 study by the National Cancer Institute found that smokers who supplemented with vitamin E actually had a slightly higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Similarly, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that vitamin E supplementation can increase the risk of prostate cancer. The study took 35,000 men and had them supplement with 400 IU of vitamin E or a placebo daily. Over five years, they found no reduced risk of prostate cancer in the participants supplementing with vitamin E, and after a follow-up three years later discovered that the vitamin E group had a 17 percent increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Lastly, of particular interest to many, a German study done in 2009 suggests that excessive vitamin E can actually reverse some of the benefits of exercise, like increased insulin sensitivity.
It should be noted that in the short-term, supplementing with 50 to 150mg of vitamin E could help boost the immune system, particularly in the elderly, and can also assist with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and improved blood flow.
The recommended daily allowance for vitamin E is a mere 15 milligrams, or 23 IUs. And since vitamin E is readily found in foods like nuts, oils, leafy greens, and some fish, there really is no need to supplement it, as a deficiency is quite rare. Using vitamin E oil as a skin care product appears to be effective and safe, although no long-term studies have been carried out.
Overall, long-term supplementation with vitamin E is not recommended. Most of the recent studies have provided inconclusive or even negative results when supplementing with vitamin E long-term. However, for older adults, short-term supplementation may beneficial.