Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin that is an essential nutrient for humans. It is believed that vitamin E is a potentantioxidant that protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from damage. It also appears to protect the body against cardiovascular diseaseand certain forms of cancer and has demonstrated immune-enhancing effects. Vitamin E may be beneficial for people suffering from asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. It may be effective in protecting against air pollution and some other toxins and is believed to be a useful supplement for preventing some neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin E may also help protect skin from ultraviolet radiation and sunburns.
Vitamin E deficiency typically occurs as a result of a number of malabsorption syndromes and as a result of protein-energy malnutrition. It is possible that vitamin E deficiency in some individuals may be caused by genetic defects, fat malabsorption syndromes, as well as by a wide range of hepatobiliary, pancreatic, and intestinal disorders including cystic fibrosis, primary biliary cirrhosis, chronic pancreatitis, short bowel syndromes, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, mesenteric vascular thrombosis, blind loop syndrome, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, intestinal lymphangiectasia, Whipple's syndrome, and sclerodermal bowel disease. The effects of vitamin E deficiency in children can many times be reversed by supplementation with vitamin E.
Research using doses of vitamin E substantially higher than the recommended dietary intakes has provided evidence that it may be helpful for preventing preeclampsia and treating such diverse conditions as cardiac autonomic neuropathy (a complication ofdiabetes), menstrual pain, tardive dyskinesia, low sperm count, restless leg syndrome, acute anterior uveitis (inflammation of eye tissues), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's Disease and rheumatoid arthritis. However, the evidence for its effectiveness in treating or preventing most of these conditions is inconclusive and more research is needed.
The primary condition that occurs as a result of vitamin E deficiency in humans is peripheral neuropathy which is characterized by the degeneration of axons in the sensory neurons. There are many other syndromes and long lasting effects of severe vitamin E deficiency. However, serious vitamin E deficiencies are rare in the U. S.
Supplemental vitamin E has been used in connection with the following conditions: • 	Anemia (may have other cause than vitamin E deficiency) • 	Burns (in combination with vitamin C for prevention of sunburns - but does not work as well as sunscreen) • 	Epilepsy (for children only) • 	Immune function (for elderly people) • 	Intermittent claudication • 	Rheumatoid arthritis • 	Tardive dyskinesia • 	Possibly Alzheimer's disease In addition to its antioxidant activity, vitamin E is also believed to act via other mechanisms, including direct effects on blood cell regulation, connective tissue growth, inflammation and cell division.