Vitamin E’s main benefits stem from its antioxidant qualities. That means it combines with oxygen and destroys free radicals. It protects polyunsaturated fats and other oxygen-sensitive compounds such as vitamin A from being destroyed by damaging oxidation reactions.
The Therapeutic Value of Vitamin E - As an antioxidant with a powerful punch, vitamin E helps prevent cancer, heart disease, strokes, cataracts, and possibly some of the signs of aging. Vitamin E protects artery walls and keeps the "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from being oxidized. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol marks the beginning of clogged arteries. Vitamin E also keeps the blood thin by preventing blood platelets from clumping together. High levels of vitamin E in the body decrease the risk of a non-fatal heart attack or stroke in most people.
A dynamic cancer fighter, vitamin E protects cells and DNA from damage that can turn cancerous. It reduces the growth of tumors while enhancing immune function and preventing precancerous substances from being turned into carcinogens. Studies with mice show that vitamin E applied to the skin may help prevent skin cancer resulting from exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Women who suffer from fibrocystic breast disease can often find relief with vitamin E supplementation. Fibrocystic breast disease is characterized by painful breasts, sometimes with benign lumps or swelling, starting several days before the menstrual period. Researchers aren't sure why vitamin E helps this condition, but numerous studies indicate that it does.
Vitamin E can be beneficial to people with diabetes. It enhances the action of insulin and improves blood glucose metabolism by reducing oxidative stress. This humble nutrient keeps the nervous system healthy by protecting the myelin sheaths that surround nerves. It also appears to prevent mental degeneration due to aging, possibly including Alzheimer disease.
Athletes need to get adequate amounts of vitamin E. The body's own metabolism creates free radicals during excessive aerobic exercise. Vitamin E reserves make sure these free radicals don't get out of hand and cause trouble. Vitamin E therapy also treats claudication-pains in the calf muscles that occur at night or during exercise. Premature babies receive vitamin E to reduce or prevent oxygen damage to the retina of the eye as a result of artificial ventilation.
Ongoing animal studies suggest that vitamin E may limit lung damage caused by air pollution. It appears that vitamin E can reduce the activity of such common air pollutants as ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Vitamin E applied to cuts may very well increase the healing rate because it minimizes oxidation reactions in the wound and also keeps the wound moist. Many women report that vitamin E helps reduce hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.
Though vitamin E can slow down the oxidation of fats that occurs in aging, experimental studies have not shown it to increase the life span of animals. Neither has it been shown to control such signs of aging as wrinkled skin or gray hair. However, the vitamin may indeed delay or prevent some diseases or a loss of function related to aging. Recent studies have reported improved short-term memory in older adults who took supplemental vitamin E. While vitamin E may not make you live longer, it may help you live a little better as you get older.