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Vitamin E deficiency: Difficulty walking could be a sign you need supplements – study

Why Vitamin E is Good For You

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Various studies have shown that a lack of vitamin E can ultimately trigger walking and coordination difficulties, as well as muscle weakness. Also known as alpha-tocopherol, or a-tocopherol, it is mainly found in fatty foods such as cooking oils – like olive oil and sunflower oil, and nuts and seeds. Vitamin E works to protect the neurons moving through our bodies – and without it the function of the nervous system can break down.

According to a study by a team of American researchers, vitamin E “is an essential dietary antioxidant with important neuroprotective functions”.

The paper, published in journal Neuroscience, proved the need for vitamin E in maintaining purkinje neurons – which live in the brain and are vital for coordination, control, and the learning of movements.

Researchers tested different diets on mice and monitored the outcomes.

“When fed a vitamin E deficient diet, mice (lacking in tocopherol transfer protein) had un-detectable levels of a-tocopherol (vitamin E) in plasma and several brain regions,” it says.

“Dietary supplementation with a-tocopherol normalised plasma levels of the vitamin, but only modestly increased its levels in the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex, indicating a critical function of brain tocopherol transfer protein (TTP).

“Vitamin E deficiency caused an increase in cerebellar oxidative stress evidenced by increased protein nitrosylation, which was prevented by dietary supplementation with the vitamin.”

It also found that vitamin E deficiency prevented Purkinje neurons forming new synapses.

The work concludes: “The anatomic decline induced by vitamin E deficiency was paralleled by behavioural deficits in motor coordination and cognitive functions that were normalised upon vitamin E supplementation.

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“These observations underscore the essential role of vitamin E and TTP in maintaining central nervous system function, and support the notion that a-tocopherol supplementation may comprise an effective intervention in oxidative stress-related neurological disorders.”

A separate study by Markus Schuelke, from a hospital university in Berlin, explores the link between vitamin E deficiency and ataxia – a group of disorders that affect coordination, balance and speech.

“Ataxia with vitamin E deficiency (AVED) generally manifests in late childhood or early teens between ages five and 15 years,” it states.

“The first symptoms include progressive ataxia, clumsiness of the hands, loss of proprioception, and areflexia.”

It adds: “Lifelong high-dose oral vitamin E supplementation to bring plasma vitamin E concentrations into the high-normal range; treatment early in the disease process may to some extent reverse ataxia and mental deterioration.”

According to the NHS, men need four milligrams of vitamin E a day, while women need 3mg.

It says: “You should be able to get all the vitamin E you need from your diet.

“Any vitamin E your body does not need immediately is stored for future use, so you do not need it in your diet every day.”

Other foods that contain vitamin E include avocados and wheat germ – which is found in cereals.

Half an average sized avocado should provide 4mg of the vitamin.

Some fish and dark leafy greens also contain vitamin E.

If you believe you need to take vitamin E supplements on top of your diet, it is recommended to take no more than 540mg a day.

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