Vitamin E in its most biologically active form is a powerful antioxidant found in nuts, fortified cereals and sweet potatoes. It is thought to protect cells of the eyes from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals, which break down healthy tissue.
AMD and cataract incidence are growing. Worldwide, more than 25 million people are affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the formation of cataracts. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 55 in the Western world and the incidence is expected to triple by 2025 as the population ages.
Studies indicate that vitamin E reduces the progression of AMD and cataract formation. Vitamin E also plays a significant role in the immune system, the health of cell membranes, in DNA repair, and in other metabolic processes. The human body does not synthesize the vitamin E it needs, which is the reason nuts, salad and vegetable oils are essential to good nutrition. Daily intake of vitamin E through diet, nutritional supplements, or fortified foods and beverages is important for the maintenance of good eye health.
Studies have indicated that cataract formation also may be delayed by supplementing the diet with vitamin E. A recent study demonstrated that higher dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin and vitamin E were associated with significantly decreased risks of cataracts.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (or AREDS), sponsored by the National Eye Institute, was a landmark study that established AMD as a ‘nutrition responsive disorder.’ The study showed that a 400 IU/day intake of vitamin E, taken with antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C and zinc supplementation, slows the progression of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by about 25 percent in individuals at high-risk for the disease. Emerging science, consisting of the AREDS results and seven smaller studies, have confirmed these results.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a dietary reference intake (DRI) for vitamin E to be 22 IU per day for both males and females. Diets low in fat can significantly decrease vitamin E intake. In adults, symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include nerve damage, muscle weakness, poor coordination, involuntary movement of the eyes and breaking of red blood cells leading to anemia. Vitamin E is a fat soluble supplement that should not be taken in excess by anyone taking supplements or medications that have blood thinning qualities.
Most Western diets are low in vitamin E, which can be found in nuts, salad and vegetable oils, peanut butter, fortified cereals and sweet potatoes. The table above lists foods known to be high in vitamin E antioxidants. Always consult with a health care professional before beginning a supplementation regiment.
*At this time, the AOA is unaware of any studies that have examined interactions between specific medications and vitamin E. The AOA also is not aware of any adverse health reports from interactions between specific medications and vitamin E. However, the AOA recommends consulting with a health care professional before beginning any supplementation regiment.