About 90 percent of American men and 96 percent of women don’t get enough vitamin E in their food or supplements. That’s bad news, because new research shows it’s essential for preventing memory loss.
Without this nutrient, the membranes of the brain’s neurons run short of a vital component. The lack of vitamin E has also been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to researchers at Oregon State University, deficiency of vitamin E can lead to neuron damage because it transports important substances from the liver to brain cells.
Lab tests at Oregon State demonstrate that vitamin E is used by the liver to send DHA — docosahexaenoic acid – to the brain. You’ve probably heard of DHA – it’s one of the three omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.1 And if there’s ONE thing we know the brain needs, it’s DHA.
The liver uses vitamin E to build substances known as “lyso Pls” that transport DHA into the brain. Once in the brain, the lyso Pls serve as building blocks for repairing the membranes of brain cells. The Oregon study shows that lyso PLs can be about 60 percent lower in brain tissue when the diet lacks enough vitamin E.
In short, a potential health disaster.
“This research showed that vitamin E is needed to prevent a dramatic loss of a critically important molecule in the brain, and helps explain why vitamin E is needed for brain health,” says researcher Maret Traber. “Human brains are very enriched in DHA but they can’t make it, they get it from the liver.”
Low Vitamin E Means Less Memory
Studies of older people confirm vitamin E’s importance. They indicate that seniors who are very low in vitamin E run a greater risk of experiencing memory difficulties.
Research in Finland, for instance, that measured the blood levels of vitamin E in people over age 65 shows that the types of vitamin E known as gamma-tocopherol and beta-tocotrienol are most important for a better memory as are the total tocotrienol levels in people’s blood.2
To better understand this research, you have to keep in mind that there are eight different varieties of vitamin E. Four forms are classified as tocopherols– alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherol – and four other forms are tocotrienols – alpha, beta, gamma, delta tocotrienol.
Years ago, much of the initial research on vitamin E only looked at the effects of alpha tocopherol. But all eight forms of vitamin E are important for health.
Can Vitamin E be Harmful?
While some researchers claim that taking vitamin E supplements may be problematic for your health, Maret Traber, at Oregon, who has performed intense research on all the forms of vitamin E, says that this concern is unfounded. In her view, “experts” who claim to have uncovered indications that vitamin E supplements can lead to things like cancer are not analyzing the research results correctly.3
“I believe that past studies which have alleged adverse consequences from vitamin E have misinterpreted the data,” she says. “Taking too much vitamin E is not the real concern. A much more important issue is that more than 90 percent of people in the US have inadequate levels of vitamin E in their diet.”
She points out that vitamin E acts as a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects virtually all the cell membranes in the body. It also operates as an anticoagulant that prevents excessive blood clotting.
To get more vitamin E in your meals and snacks, eat foods relatively rich in vitamin E like sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, avocado and red pepper.
If you take supplements, make sure they include all the basic, natural forms of vitamin E – both the tocopherols and the tocotrienols. The tocotrienols can be hard to find. They aren’t found in most vitamin E supplements, so you should probably figure on getting your vitamin E on the internet.