Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin (can be stored in the body) and is considered to be one of natures most effective antioxidants, which protect the body against free. In studies, it has been shown to be an important antioxidant in relation to fertility as it protects cell membranes from oxidative damage.
What are exactly are free radicals?
Free radicals are chemical by-products which are generated during normal biochemical reactions in the body. They are highly reactive and are used by the body to fight inflammation, kill bacteria and to maintain smooth muscle tone. If free radicals build up in the body, they can cause damage to DNA, proteins, fats and even body cells and tissues by a process called oxidation. Antioxidants found in many fruit and vegetable that we eat can neutralise these free radicals.
Which foods provide us with vitamin E?
Good sources include: Wheat germ, prawns, soya beans, sunflower seeds, oats, apricots, eggs, leafy vegetables, broccoli, spinach, nuts, papaya….
Why is it needed by the body?
- Vitamin E protects vitamin A from becoming chemically changed, helps make red blood cells and prevents blood from clotting. It is stored mainly in the liver and in muscle tissue.
- Slows down the ageing process
- Helps the development and maintenance of nerves and muscles
- Supports the immune system
- Heals skin and helps prevent scarring
- Helps to reduce inflammation
What can cause a deficiency in Vitamin E?
Dietary deficiency of vitamin E is rare and if it does occur it is usually seen in people who have long term conditions which involve difficulty in absorbing fats from the small intestine such as those with Chron’s disease or Cystic fibrosis.
What are the symptoms of a deficiency?
Anaemia and nervous system problems.
Why is it important for fertility?
Vitamin E was linked to fertility by the ancient Greeks. The most active form of vitamin E is Alpha-Tocopherol, whose name originates from the Greek words tokos which means ‘offspring’ and phero which means ‘to bear’. Thus, tocopherol means to ‘bear children’. It is a powerful antioxidant which is important in protecting sperm and egg DNA from free radical damage.
Vitamin E is thought to improve sperm quality and motility in men. It has shown to be particularly beneficial when supplemented alongside selenium.
In women, vitamin E may help regulate the production of cervical mucus, which is important for conception, due to its ability to keep sperm alive for several days. A study published by Fertility and Sterility in April, 2010, showed that vitamin E supplementation may aid in increasing the thickness of the uterine lining in women with thin uterine lining <8mm.
Vitamin E has been shown to improve insulin action by improving insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, which may be of help to those with PCOS or diabetes (check with G.P before supplementing anything if diabetic). Balanced sugar levels in the blood are important for hormone balance.
In certain studies it has been found that maternal vitamin E status, at least in the first trimester of pregnancy, may influence the risk of early miscarriage (see study below for more information), but more research is required into this area.
Did you know?
Approximately 90% of vitamin E is lost when wheat is refined into white flour……
Abu Ahmed Shamim, Kerry Schulze, Rebecca D Merrill, Alamgir Kabir, Parul Christian, Saijuddin Shaikh, Lee Wu, Hasmot Ali, Alain B Labrique, Sucheta Mehra, Rolf DW Klemm, Mahbubur Rashid, Pongtorn Sungpuag, Emorn Udomkesmalee, Keith P West, Jr., First-trimester plasma tocopherols are associated with risk of miscarriage in rural Bangladesh, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 2, February 2015, Pages 294–301, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.094920
Keskes-Ammar, L, Feki-Chakroun, N, Rebai, T, Sahnoun, Z, Ghozzi, H,Hammami, S, Zghal, K Fki, H, Damak, J and Bahloul A (2003). sperm oxidative stress and the effect of an oral vitamin e and selenium supplement on semen quality in infertile men. Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine 49:2,pp 83-94.
Takasaki A, Tamura H, Miwa I, Taketani T, Shimamura K, Sugino N (April 2010). Endometrial growth and uterine blood flow: a pilot study for improving endometrial thickness in the patients with a thin endometrium. Fertil. Steril. 93 (6): pp1851–8.