Vitamin E was initially known for its property of preventing sterility. Discovered in the early 1920's by various biochemists in the USA working independently, it was known that feeding rats on a diet of only milk made them infertile.
Adding various other foods made no difference until one researcher discovered that the humble lettuce, restored the rats' fertility.
It's a fat soluble compound, and is found in much larger concentrations in various oils such as that in wheat germ.
Persistent reports suggest strongly that one should get it from whole, unprocessed foods rather than in capsules; read further for the data.
There are eight different forms, but we'll mention only two; alpha and gamma tocopherol. Not much is known about the others.
Mixed tocopherols give protection against cancer.
But many health food store supplements contain only the alpha tocopherol fraction and this is now known to increase the rate of prostate cancer. Why is that?
The researcher above named the unknown substance in the lettuce vitamin E.
The vitamin E story is a fascinating cooperation between biochemists, but what comes out of it is that vitamin E is readily oxidised, and in the oxidation process acts as an anti oxidant, giving protection to the cells of the body.
When fats are broken down in cell membranes, free radicals are produced, but the tocopherol protects these membranes against oxidation, being itself oxidised in the process.
Vital in nerve function, it protects the myelin sheath of nerve cells. A deficiency causes serious neurological diseases.
Anti coagulants prevent clotting in the blood vessels; vitamin E ranks high on the list.
It is noteworthy that heart disease was almost unknown, and certainly heart attack very rare, prior to the refining of wheat flour, removing in the process the wheat germ oil and its tocopherols; the lignans too. It's an important factor in the anti-coagulation of blood. It helps to stop clots from forming.
Do you have the signs of an imminent heart attack at your finger tips? It could save a life, even yours.
And know that if you've had one heart attack or stroke, there's another coming within a year unless you make radical life style changes, including consuming foods rich in vitamin E. First and foremost though, have a test to see if you are insulin resistant.
Tingling in arms and hands and legs
Interesting new research done in the Netherlands shows that vitamin E combined with certain fatty acids gives protection against the most awful of diseases: Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis.
Anti-cholesterol drugs too, not uncommonly cause tingling in the limbs.
Vitamin E is a must but alpha tocopherol, the commonest form, on its own increases prostate cancer.
The other form, Gamma-tocopherol has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, in addition to acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, but these properties are limited in the alpha-tocopherol form; some of the lesser known vitamin E compounds may be even more effective.
In short, alpha and gamma tocopherol have very different functions:
Clearly both are needed in the healthy diet, and almost certainly the other six tocopherols too.
Prostate cancer is the most common terminal malignant disease of men; make sure you are getting gamma vitamin E from your food; and selenium too.
A research project involving a very large group of men showed clearly that gamma tocopherol gave five times protection against prostate cancer, but the alpha form and selenium on their own had little or no effect.
The most powerful anti cancer effect seemed to be when all three were present. Gamma and alpha tocopherol, and selenium.
Alpha tocopherol alone has no value in the fight against prostate cancer. In fact there are suggestions that it may increase the risk. Why is that?
Alpha and gamma tocopherol are competing for absorption sites in the small intestine. If you are consuming small amounts of the gamma isomer in your diet, and flooding the small intestine with the alpha isomer from capsules then the latter inhibits the absorption of gamma tocopherol, the isomer that mops up the free radicals that cause prostate cancer.
In short, for your prostate gland consume foods rich in alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol and selenium. Foods like mushrooms and avocados.
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2. Alpha tocopherol
But processed, solvent extracted supermarket sunflower oil? Probably little or none. Says researcher, H Slover: Processing and preparation almost invariably reduces the tocopherol content, sometimes to insignificant levels.
Alpha tocopherol is the most widely distributed, naturally occurring form in foods. However, as stated above, in certain foods, corn and soya beans for example, other forms may predominate.
In short, there are persistent reports that vitamin E supplementation, since it usually only contains the alpha form, has little value in protecting health, and may in fact increase the risks.
Clearly it's most beneficial to obtain it from natural sources; whole wheat, corn on the cob, sunflower seeds, tofu, almonds, peanuts, avocados and beans.
The moral of the story is that sparkling good health doesn't come out of a vitamin pill bottle. It comes from eating foods rich in these substances; as broad a diet as possible.
Whilst baking your own bread can in no way be described as healthy food, made fast, if you use refined flour there are few more rewarding things from the kitchen than a homemade, fresh loaf, sprinkled with sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
To make it truly a health food you have alas to go the expense of electric flour mill and a bread machine; and five minutes every day to prepare the dough. Nevertheless your divine tasting healthy loaf costs less than half of the nutritionless supermarket loaf; the cost of that hardware has been paid back many times over 25 years.
It takes the good wife less than 5 minutes to measure out the ingredients for our solar bread; a few moments plus five hours.
Or making, Johnny bread from your own corn.
Using fresh ground grains, perhaps using a bread maker, wholemeal homemade bread is rich in the natural forms of vitamin E.
A gluten allergy? Try this gluten free bread recipe ...
Beware: whilst we make bread using our fifteen-year old Panasonic bread making machine at least four days a week, and wouldn't swap it for anything, bread making machines are reported to be the most unused machines the kitchen. Don't buy it unless you REALLY plan to use it. Five minutes each time for delic hot, healthy bread. It tastes so good you'll find you have no need to smother it with ham or polony, or peanut butter and jelly.
You know that processed red meat is public enemy number one of the prostate, right?
Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family found in some vegetable oils, wheat germ, flaxseed, barley and maize, and some nuts like hazelnuts. They are thought to have even greater antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than the alpha and gamma tocopherols.
Those enjoying a broad selection of foods need have no fear of deficiencies.
If you want to reach eighty with all your faculties intact, you really have no option; healthy choice foods and plenty of exercise. It's impossible to rank them, but vitamin E must be right up there; not in pill form which distorts things, but from your food.
Choline food sources to prevent birth defects, lutein to keep macular degeneration at bay, tomatoes to protect against prostate cancer, and so it goes; the list is seemingly endless. The only solution is a wide range of healthy choice foods.