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This is a fat soluble vitamin, composed of a number of substances known collectively as 'tocopherols' - these are subdivided into alpha, beta, gamma and so on. Of these, alpha tocopherol is the most active.
Tocopherol, itself, is derived from two Greek words meaning 'childbearing, since early studies of this vitamin involved fertility problems.
The vitamin is an important antioxidant. It binds oxygen and protects the fats in our bodies from the damaging effects of uncontrolled oxidation, peroxides and free radicals. These peroxides attack body cells, immune cells and cholesterol, reducing resistance and causing the degenerative diseases of ageing, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, senility and strokes.
By binding oxygen, vitamin E alleviates some of the primary causes of death and helps to extend life-span. The vitamin also improves cell respiration (a boon to active sports people), promotes fertility and sexual potency.
Deficiency symptoms include fatigue and premature ageing, varicose veins and the slow healing of wounds.
The best natural sources are eggs, green leafy vegetables, grains, soybeans and wheat germ.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 15 i.u for adults and 10.5 i.u for children, however most nutritionists recommend between 100 and 1,000 i.u. See 'Vitamin', 'Vitamin B Complex', 'Vitamin B2', 'VitaminB5', 'Vitamin B6', 'Vitamin B12','Vitamin B15'; 'Vitamin C', 'Vitamin K', 'Vitamin P'. For more information on nutrition, see 'Nutrients A to Z' by Dr. Michael Sharon; Prion Books.