Vitamin E is needed in small amounts for the proper functioning of the body. However, a recent study has suggested that one particular form of the vitamin has been causing more harm than one would have thought, probably behind a number of ailments linked to the lungs.
Vitamin E is normally available in certain food items. It exists in basically eight chemical forms, each of which is particular as to the health implications. The eight forms constitute a group of fat-soluble compounds acting as antioxidants. These are alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol.
Alpha tocopherol is the only one which is in line with our body requirements. Its main function in the body serves as antioxidant, protecting the body from free radicals.
It has been reported that certain food items containing vitamin E are detrimental to our health. These foods include the canola, soybean and corn. They could have a negative role to play in ailments relating to the respiratory system: lung inflammation, asthma, and so on. However, other foods containing vitamin E like olive oil, wheat germ oil, almond and sunflower oil render highly beneficial effects on to the lung system, enhancing lung capacity. A new study has made the distinction among the different effects of the four types of vitamin E.
We need vitamin E for a number of reasons. Being an antioxidant, it provides protection from free radicals which can do some serious damage if let free inside the body tissues. It is important for many activities in our body such as boosting the immune system by doing away with pathogens including bacteria and viruses. It is also needed during the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin E is also important in allowing the body to exploit the vitamin K being consumed. However, it can prove to be dangerous if taken in excessive amounts.
Two of the forms of vitamin E dealt with in the study mentioned above are:
While alpha-tocopherol is beneficial, its gamma counterpart may do the opposite.
Vegetable oils sources of vitamin E
People across the globe differ in their dietary intakes: while Americans consume more canola, soybean and corn as sources of vitamin E, Europeans get their dose of vitamin E from olive oil, wheat germ oil, almond and sunflower oil. While the former group of food contains the gamma-tocopherol version, the latter group has the alpha-tocopherol. Americans, thus, have more gamma-tocopherol levels in their blood that their European counterparts: four times more as shown by the study.
By analysing data from their subjects, the researchers found a correlation between high gamma-tocopherol levels and reduced lung function. It was observed that huge concentrations of gamma-tocopherol in the blood plasma hinted at a 10-17% reduction in lung capacity. The soybean, canola, and corn oils were once considered to be healthier alternatives to lard and butter and were hence added into the diet. Could this have resulted into another health problem: lung problems?
To further support the conclusions of the study, the researchers showed that those countries with lower rates of asthma have diets composed of olive and sunflower oils; foods which contain alpha-tocopherol, as opposed to gamma-tocopherol.