Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin after all, just the same as vitamins A, D and K, the darlings of nutritional classic Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
Yet, vitamin E is infrequently mentioned in Dr. Weston A. Price’s work and is not referred to as one of the fat soluble activators (A, D, and K) – nutrients that were plentiful in the foods revered and even considered sacred by ancestral societies for bestowing health and vitality to young and old alike.
Research to date suggests that vitamin E’s role is primarily as a powerful and important antioxidant. Specifically, vitamin E is protective of free radical damage to the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes and is hence extremely critical to the healthy maintenance of these membranes so they can properly perform their designated functions.
Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, ND, author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox, suggests that if vitamin E were significantly involved in protein production like the hormone-like vitamins A, D and K, then a deficiency would produce clinical symptoms.
Surprisingly, unlike deficiencies of A, D or K, vitamin E deficiency does not typically produce noticeable symptoms.
Does this mean that vitamin E is unimportant?
On the contrary, while vitamin E may not act as a hormone directly like its more popular fat soluble cousins, it has been found to play a role in the release of every single reproductive hormone from the pituitary gland. In animals, vitamin E deficiency reduces production of follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones, critical to fertility in both men and women.
Declining vitamin E in the diet was already recognized as a problem in the 1930′s when the modern epidemic of infertility began. Researchers at that time believed declining female fertility was due to large scale grain milling that had started a generation before. Once whole grains are milled, they lose vitamin E rapidly due to exposure to air. Hence, whole grains that are consumed more than two days after milling which would have been the case in large scale production, would contribute to a widespread decline in vitamin E in the diet.
Dr. Price also believed diminishing vitamin E in the modern diet to be the culprit in declining fertility, even going so far as to refer to vitamin E as the “antisterility vitamin”.
Today, the Standard American Diet is almost completely devoid of vitamin E for two reasons: consumption of freshly milled whole grains has all but disappeared and the widespread practice of grain feeding to animals which causes a large decline in the vitamin E content of meat, dairy, and eggs.
How to Restore Vitamin E to the Modern Diet
Whole grains are a very good source of vitamin E in the diet provided they are eaten within two days of grinding and properly prepared according to traditional methods. Consequently, whole grain foods like breakfast cereals, pastas and bread purchased from the store are not candidates for maintaining excellent vitamin E status even if organic.
Fruits and vegetables are not good sources of vitamin E and even avocados which are high in monounsaturated fat do not contain a large amount.
Oils from seeds or grains contain vitamin E, however, use of these oils as a supplement is not advisable as the majority of people already consume far too much due to an over-reliance on processed foods which contain these oils in rancid form. In addition, excessive intake of polyunsaturated fats can contribute to inflammation and even trigger overeating.
Consumption of meat, dairy and eggs from grazing and freely roaming animals is an excellent way to naturally restore vitamin E to the diet.
In conclusion, while vitamin E has not attained the same stature as its more prominent fat soluble cousins, A, D, and K, it is nonetheless vital to good health and easy fertility due to its established role as a powerful antioxidant.
Continuing research on this nutrient may prove a further role in healing and wellness such as a recent study which suggests that high doses of vitamin E daily may slow early Alzheimer’s disease.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist