Vitamins are organic substances required by the body in small amount for its normal metabolic activities. Considered to be important, yet the body cannot synthesize most vitamins for itself in adequate quantity. Body meets its need of vitamins through external means such as from food we eat, or from sunlight etc.
Vitamin E is one such fat soluble vitamin that needs a special mention as it has interesting property of reducing tissue oxidation. It helps in preventing several dangerous diseases like heart attack, cancer, skin damage etc.
Organically there are 8 types of vitamin E, but alpha-tocopherol is an important one that is required by the body for its metabolic activities. In its natural form, vitamin E is found in all nut oils such as groundnut oil, almond oil, olive oil etc. It is also found in abundance in sunflower seeds, wheat germ, whole grains and spinach.
The normal recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E is 15mg for adults. In children the requirement is considerably less.
What Causes Deficiency Of Vitamin E?
Vitamin E deficiency is rare. As vitamin E is fat soluble vitamin, deficiency may occur in people having disease that prevent adequate adsorption of fat from the diet we eat. This happens when the bile secretion is hampered. Following are some of the states where vitamin E deficiency may occur, this are cystic fibrosis, cholestasis, pancreatitis. In all these diseases, there is less secretion of pancreatic enzyme and bile salts which are necessary for absorption of fats. It results in steatorrhea (meaning passage of unabsorbed fats in stool). Since vitamin E is present in fats that we eat, trouble in fat absorption will lead to vitamin E deficiency.
Abetalipoproteinemia is a rare genetic disorder in which there is a problem in producing lipoproteins. The infant will have steatorrhea after birth which is the early sign of this disease. People who have done surgical resection of intestine may also suffer from fat malabsorption and consequently vitamin E deficiency.
Certain disease known as AVED (ataxia and vitamin E deficiency) can lead to problems in nerve and muscle co-ordination. The problem can affect muscles of heart and the eyes. The severest form is inability to walk.
Symptoms And Treatment For Vitamin E Deficiency
The symptoms of vitamin E deficiency are normally seen in those who cannot digest fats, those infants having genetic abnormalities or infants who are prematurely born.
In infants: retardation in physical and mental growth, delayed milestones, problem in feeding resulting in weight loss. Infant having abetalipoproteinemia may have pigmented retinopathy, decline in visual field,
In children: slow physical growth, limb ataxia, sensory and motor nerve problems, problems in maintaining position and balance, opthalmoplegia, weakness of eye muscles leading o ptosis,
In adults: age spots, neurological damage, mild to moderate hemolytic anemia, loss of libido, cataracts, complete blindness, cardiac arrhythmia, and dementia in severe deficiency. Loss of hairs, leg cramps, and GI tract problems are well documented due to vitamin E deficiency.
Vitamin E Deficiency Treatment
As vitamin E is found in plenty of foods that we eat regularly, deficiency can be prevented by eating a balanced diet. A balanced diet which consists of fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole grains or fortified cereals may usually suffice the necessary requirement of vitamin E.
The other sources of vitamin E are all nuts and their oils and eggs, fish, beans, poultry, meat etc.
Deficiency of vitamin E when present due to mal-absorption syndrome or low amount of bile salts due to cholestatic diseases may require administration of intramuscular injection of vitamin E as oral absorption is hampered. It is given and prescribed by the treating doctor.