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Nutrition: vitamins and minerals
Nutrition: vitamins and minerals

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1.4 Vitamin E

Vitamin E is not a single compound, but consists of a group of eight closely related chemicals, of which the most important, responsible for about 90% of its activity in the body is alpha-tocopherol. Since, like vitamins A and D, vitamin E is fat-soluble, it occurs in fat-rich foods. The main sources in the UK diet are from plant oils such as soya, corn and olive oil. Other good sources include nuts and seeds, and wheatgerm (the part of the wheat grain that will develop into the new plant) and some green leafy vegetables. It is added to some margarines and spreads.

The main role of vitamin E in the body is as an antioxidant.

Activity 9

Fill in the blanks in the following short paragraph. You may need to look again at the end of the section on Vitamin A.

Some chemical reactions in the body produce harmful substances called________ that contain single_________and become involved in chain reactions in the cells, which can be damaging to the body._______________________like vitamins______and____neutralise the harmful substances and prevent further damage.

Answer

Some chemical reactions in the body produce harmful substances called free radicals that contain single electrons and become involved in chain reactions in the cells, which can be damaging to the body. Antioxidants like vitamins A and E neutralise the harmful substances and prevent further damage.

Vitamin E is particularly important in maintaining cell membranes in a healthy state. Its presence appears to be particularly significant in the lungs, red blood cells, heart and brain, though deficiencies are rare and few human conditions can be specifically related to its absence. However, fewer cases of heart disease and cancer occur in people whose vitamin E intake is adequate. There is, as yet, no clear evidence that taking in additional vitamin E gives additional protection against these conditions and supplements are not advised.