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Our Brains Need Abundant Vitamin E

Vitamin E has received a huge amount of press lately, because it's an important antioxidant - one of those beneficial nutrients that protect our tissues from the destructive effects of free radicals.* An important aspect of vitamin E's role as an antioxidant is the fact that it's fat-soluble (unlike vitamin C, e.g., which is water-soluble). Consequently, vitamin E is exceedingly valuable in protecting cell membranes (which are fatty in composition) from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. By helping to keep the membranes healthy, vitamin E helps keep the entire cell healthy as well. But its benefits go well beyond that.

*Actually, vitamin E is not a single compound, but a group of eight closely related compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. All eight have biological activity, but the most active one is alpha-tocopherol. Another one, gamma-tocopherol, may contribute significantly to human health in ways that have not yet been recognized (see "Vitamin E Protects Against Prostate Cancer, and More" in Life Enhancement, September 2002).

All the body's tissues contain lipids (fats and other fatty compounds), but the brain is especially rich in these vital substances, which are highly susceptible to oxidative damage from free radicals. The brain therefore requires a great deal of antioxidant protection - all the more so because it consumes a disproportionate amount of the body's oxygen supply, making it that much more vulnerable to oxidative damage. Not surprisingly, recent research suggests that increased intake of vitamin E helps preserve brain function and protect against neuronal (nerve-cell) degeneration. In essence, a healthy intake of vitamin E can prevent or slow the rate of cognitive decline as the brain ages.

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