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Vitamin E’s history in the Haircare business is a sordid tale full of misunderstandings. So why is it important? Let’s dive in.
Vitamin E is a natural defender your body needs. It prevents the formation of something called reactive oxygen species (ROS): DNA-damaging substances that are naturally formed in the body when fat oxidizes. ROS formation is a natural part of being human--it occurs literally every time you grab a snack or eat your lunch! However, ROS can be problematic in excess, resulting in a type of cell damage known as oxidative stress. Vitamin E and other antioxidants like vitamin C help counteract the damaging effects of ROS. In short, E is good for your DNA and cells.
Vitamin E is available in a wealth of plant-based foods, especially nuts and seeds. You might be low in E if you don’t eat a variety of these foods, but risk of severe shorfalls is pretty low. Most women in the US are just slightly low in vitamin E, which is why we recommend supplementing your diet with about 10 IU: the perfect amount to bring most of us up to the right levels.
Like a lot of nutrients, E comes in many subforms, eight to be exact. But only four of the eight--the tocopherols--are important for us. The most famous of the tocopherols are alpha tocopherol (a-TO) and gamma tocopherol (g-TO).
It hasBoth alpha and gamma in similar amounts, but a-TO gets all the love from the supplement industry. Why? Alpha tocopherol is the only type of E that’s been shown to reverse signs of vitamin E shorfalls. That’s why, when it came time for scientists to decide on daily value requirements, they gave a-TO all the love, and ignored benefits outside of low-level prevention that other vitamin E forms may provide.
Where the daily value literature leads, most vitamin companies follow. That means that most vitamin E supplements contain only a-TO.
Research has shown that eating a diet high in all four tocopherols has real health benefits. And yet, there is active scientific debate around whether vitamin E supplementation is beneficial. The problem? Most of the studies used as ammo in this debate tested only the effects of high-dose a-TO supplements, rather than balanced supplements with the four forms of E found in healthy diets. See the disconnect?