Vitamin E is fairly common, but not all vitamin E supplemental ingredients are the same.
What many people may not know is that vitamin E isn’t just one simple vitamin. It is actually a collection of components called tocopherols, and you really need the full family of those constituent parts in order to get the most from vitamin E. These mixed tocopherols – alpha, beta, delta, and gamma – are more effective than a truncated single ingredient, as found in many supplemental formulas.
Vitamin E components are strong, free radical scavengers. They prevent damage to the cells, points of entry for viruses, and scientific studies show that vitamin E activates macrophages, white blood cells, and antibody responses as well.
Additionally, vitamin E regulates dendritic cells, which signal between our innate and adaptive immune systems and deliver up antigens – toxins or foreign substances in the body – to T-cells that fight them and protect us from illnesses.
Although the authors of this study report that deficiencies of vitamin E are rare, bear in mind that a deficiency and an optimum level of vitamin E are not the same thing. In fact, they also report that supplementation at levels that are higher than what is currently recommended actually reduce the risk of infection, especially in older individuals. That alone makes it imperative to find a vitamin E supplement that features the full family of tocopherols, so it can work to its fullest potential.
Lewis ED, Meydani SN, Wu D. Regulatory role of vitamin E in the immune system and inflammation. IUBMB Life. 2019;71(4):487-494. doi:10.1002/iub.1976
Vitamin E, a potent lipid-soluble antioxidant, found in higher concentration in immune cells compared to other cells in blood, is one of the most effective nutrients known to modulate immune function. Vitamin E deficiency has been demonstrated to impair normal functions of the immune system in animals and humans, which can be corrected by vitamin E repletion. Although deficiency is rare, vitamin E supplementation above current dietary recommendations has been shown to enhance the function of the immune system and reduce risk of infection, particularly in older individuals. The mechanisms responsible for the effect of vitamin E on the immune system and inflammation have been explored in cell-based, pre-clinical and clinical intervention studies. Vitamin E modulates T cell function through directly impacting T cell membrane integrity, signal transduction, and cell division, and also indirectly by affecting inflammatory mediators generated from other immune cells. Modulation of immune function by vitamin E has clinical relevance as it affects host susceptibility to infectious diseases such as respiratory infections, in addition to allergic diseases such as asthma. Studies examining the role of vitamin E in the immune system have typically focused on α-tocopherol; however, emerging evidence suggests that other forms of vitamin E, including other tocopherols as well as tocotrienols, may also have potent immunomodulatory functions. Future research should continue to identify and confirm the optimal doses for individuals at different life stage, health condition, nutritional status, and genetic heterogeneity. Future research should also characterize the effects of non-α-alpha-tocopherol vitamin E on immune cell function as well as their potential clinical application. © 2018 IUBMB Life, 71(4):487-494, 2019.
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