Vitamin E is made up of tocopherols and tocotrienols. These compounds have biologically similar activities, of which alpha-tocopherol is the most active compound that meets the human body requirement. Its deficiency symptoms are commonly observed in developing countries and is less common in developed countries. The vitamin deficiency in developed countries is mostly due to fat malabsorption.
Vitamin E Requirement of the Human Body
The requirement according to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for an adult is 15 mg. Children under 3 years require 6 mg and children between the age 4 and 8 require around 7 mg. The upper tolerable limit is 1,000 mg for an adult.
Vitamin E Overdose
Vitamin E builds up in the body as it is a fat-soluble vitamin. The toxic reactions to it are lesser than the other vitamins. However, its overdose can lead to an increased risk of bleeding problems.
Uses of Vitamin E
It is required by the body for the following functions:
- It helps in slowing down the aging process of the body.
- It has good antioxidant properties.
- It is required for development and maintenance of nerves and muscles.
- It is a natural diuretic.
- It helps healing skin injury and prevents scarring internally and externally.
- It also helps protect the lungs against pollution and reduces the overall requirement of oxygen by the body.
- It helps improve fertility and prevents miscarriages.
- It acts as an antioxidant that helps in increasing the blood circulation to the scalp area. This increase in oxygen to the scalp helps nourish the hair cells and increase their life span.
Symptoms of Vitamin E Deficiency
The vitamin E deficiency symptoms are generally seen in premature infants, individuals with genetic abnormalities and those who cannot digest fat.
Symptoms in Infants
- Retrolental fibroplasia in premature infants and some cases of intraventricular and subependymal hemorrhage in neonates
- Loss of weight and delayed growth
- Poor feeding habits
- Developmental problems that includes physical and mental problems
Symptoms in Children
- Chronic cholestatic hepatobiliary disease-causing neurological deficits
- Spinocerebellar ataxia with loss of deep tendon reflexes
- Truncal and limb ataxia
- Loss of vibration and position senses
- Muscle weakness
- Slow growth in children
Symptoms in Adults
- Mild hemolytic anemia
- Nonspecific neurological deficits
- Disorders related to reproduction and infertility
- Fragile red blood cells
- Age spots
- Neurological damage
- Decrease in sex drive
- Muscle, liver, bone marrow and brain function abnormalities.
Apart from these symptoms, one may also observe loss of hair, muscular weakness, leg cramps as well as gastrointestinal disorders due to its deficiency. Lack of vitamin E in the body causes the RBC cells to become fragile. It may also lead to decrease in blood circulation within the body. Enlarged prostate, impotency, muscular wasting are some other effects of this deficiency.
Vitamin deficiency can lead to major complications in life. Thus, consume healthy foods and drinks that contain vitamins and minerals. Peanuts, soybean, corn oil, sunflower seeds are rich sources of vitamin E. Remember to take vitamin C along with vitamin E as it promotes its absorption. Women of menopausal age, pregnant women and those who take contraceptive pills require its supplements. Remember vitamin supplements should be taken at the same time every day. It has blood thinning effect, thus consult your doctor before taking vitamin supplements if you are on warfarin or ginkgo. Foods rich in vitamins will help you overcome the deficiency symptoms.