Vitamin E is a complex vitamin. Complex but not complicated hopefully. Complex because it’s a compound that includes both tocopherols and tocotrienols. It’s not a simple one like Vitamin D
WHY DOES IT MATTER
It will matter when you do decide to supplement with Vitamin E (or B for that matter because it’s complex too). You may think what you have bought is Vitamin E but that may only be half the truth (or even less). It will be an incomplete Vitamin E. You basically get a bad deal. You think you have a Tesla but it’s really Corolla under the hood.
Consider that you are pro-active about your health and don’t want to actually sit around for rickets or soft bones to happen to know that you are Vitamin D3 deficient. So you get a bunch of lab tests done and the blood work confirms your suspicion that you are low in Vitamin D and Vitamin E. Chances are that you are going to follow this up with Vitamin D3 and Vitamin E supplementation. This is where the simplicity of D3 and complexity of E will trip you up.
SIMPLICITY vs COMPLEXITY
You go to the pharmacy and request for a good brand of Vitamin D3 and E and you hope that you are sorted. Alternatively, you go to www.iherb.com and do a bit of research on best brands. So you settle on Life Extension for Vitamin D3 and some other brand for Vitamin E.
You end up buying Life Extension Vitamin D3 5000 IU (that’s what I use myself).
(IU stands for International Units)
Look at the back and you can see that each capsule contains Vitamin D3 as cholecalciferol. It’s really that simple. The bio-available form of Vitamin D called D3 is cholecalciferol.
E IS NOT SO SIMPLE
In the same vein, you search for Vitamin E and you decide to buy some brand of Vitamin E.
Let’s examine the ingredients.
So each capsule contains 400 IU worth of Vitamin E as d-alpha tocopherol. That should trigger the next logical question? Is there a Bravo, Charlie and even a Delta type tocopherol J. And it definitely doesn’t have the tocotrienols form.
Let’s see if we can find something better. Here is another reputed brand:
What do you know? We don’t quite have Bravo, Charlie and Delta but you do have Beta, Delta and Gamma. So you at least have E complex now but still no tocotrienols.
Let’s search for “Vitamin E tocotrienols”. I recognize couple of my go to brands, Jarrow Formulas and Life Extension.
Or consider LifeExtension, which looks even more loaded and the real deal.
See how very quickly we moved from a simple and incomplete Vitamin E supplement -> Vitamin E tocopherol complex -> Complete E (full spectrum and containing both the forms).
Fortunately, most of us don’t need to supplement with Vitamin E and you can get enough from almonds, green leafy vegetables and Avocado (bit of show-off fruit-vegetable I say). When it’s possible to get all of your vitamin needs from whole foods, it’s the perfect scenario.
SO SHOULD I NOT SUPPLEMENT?
Each to his own but my philosophy to supplementation is very simple. Where food can’t suffice, I resort to supplementation. Modern food, even organic whole foods are deficient is certain vitamins and minerals. The nutrition ultimately comes from the soil and if it’s lacking in soil, it’s going to be lacking in the food we eat. And sometimes where and how you live affects how much Vitamin D3 you can really make.
For example, you can’t make enough Vitamin D3 in New Zealand for 8 months of the year. And for the 4 months that you can, how much time do we really spend outdoors and our skin’s exposed to the sun? Most of us are holed up in sterile office environments for major portion of the day. I got myself tested for Vitamin D3 levels (I was supplementing with nearly every day with 4000 IU on average every day) to make sure I am overdosing on D3. I was actually discouraged by my GP to not get the test done and GP was quite surprised that I supplement with D3. Well the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test confirmed that I just managed to sneak into the optimal range. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to get adequate magnesium from foods we eat.
There is a very small risk that we can overdo on certain vitamins and thus create toxicity at the cellular level so it’s worth learning the basics.
I have a pretty small list of supplements at the moment which includes:
Vitamin D3 and K2 (better together)
Omega-3 (fish oil)
B12 and Folate (not folic acid)
Magnesium (before I sleep).