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Vitamin E Series 1: Natural Vitamin E and Human Health

Update:15-10-2020

Vitamin E, the endorsement of antioxidants, frequently appears in various health care preparations or skin care products. So, does vitamin E really have an antioxidant effect? What are the sources and functions of vitamin E and how does it work? Let's start the journey of exploring the answers with the editor!

01

Introduction to Natural Vitamin E

What we call vitamin E usually refers to natural vitamin E, which is a type of fat-soluble vitamin naturally present in food. In 1922, natural vitamin E was discovered for the first time, and it was confirmed that its existence is bound to a lot for the normal breeding of rats. Natural vitamin E includes tocopherols (α, β, γ, δ-tocopherol) and tocotrienols (α, β, γ, δ-tocotrienol), a total of 8 compounds. Among them, α-tocopherol has the widest distribution and the greatest biological activity, and it is recognized as the only form of meeting human needs.

02

Natural source of vitamin E

Natural vitamin E is widely distributed in foods. Foods rich in content include nuts, seeds, green vegetables and various vegetable oils. Most natural vitamin E is obtained from wheat germ oil, rapeseed oil and soybean oil. It should be noted that the vitamin E content in food is related to food processing, storage, and cooking methods. Heating, light, and long-term air exposure may all lead to a decrease in vitamin E levels. The content of vitamin E in various foods is shown in Table 1 (different data sources, the content is slightly different, for reference only).

03

Natural vitamin E function

First of all, natural vitamin E has a strong antioxidant effect. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the human body contain multiple methylene double bonds, which are prone to auto-oxidation. This auto-oxidation process generates some free radicals (reactive oxygen molecules), which in turn damages cell membranes or cells. When natural vitamin E is present, it can capture oxygen free radicals first, thereby effectively preventing the excessive oxidation of fat and protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage. Generally, 1 molecule of tocopherol can protect 100 or more PUFA molecules from auto-oxidation damage. In addition, studies have found that the protective effect of natural vitamin E on human health is reflected in many aspects, including:

1) Protect cell membranes: Vitamin E can inhibit the peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes and organelle membranes, scavenge free radicals, and protect the integrity of cell membranes/organelles.

2) Protect enzyme activity: Vitamin E can protect certain sulfhydryl-containing enzymes from being oxidized, thereby ensuring the activity of the enzyme system.

3) Maintain the normal immune function of the body: Vitamin E is very important to the function of T lymphocytes. Sufficient intake of vitamin E can reduce the prevalence of lung cancer and breast cancer.

4) Prevention of chemical pollution: The main pollutants in the air, such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, etc., can become free radicals, which can be ingested into animals and damage the lungs. Animal experiments have found that vitamin E has an effective protective effect on these air pollutants.

5) Anti-aging: Through animal experiments, the intake of vitamin E can help eliminate lipid peroxides in brain cells, etc., and can improve skin elasticity and delay gonadal atrophy, which has a certain effect on preventing aging.