The human body is one of the wonderful mechanisms of the nature. The body is built by genes through cell generation, nourished by nature through natural food and air and is finally destroyed by the gradual damage of the cells. The process by which we age and by which most of the diseases happen is through the damage to the cells.
The cell damage is caused by free radicals present in the body. Free radicals are “atoms or groups of atoms with an odd, unpaired number of electrons”. For example, sodium that is present in salt as sodium chloride has the chemical structure, Na. When it loses an electron, it becomes positively charged and is chemically represented as Na +. Similarly, there are negatively charged particles. In nature, everything balances to a state of equilibrium, for instance, water flows from a higher level to lower level. Hence, these charged particles are highly reactive.
Free radicals are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules in the body. Once formed, they start a chain reaction by reacting with the molecules in the cells and, in the process, damage the cells. To respond to this challenge, the body has a defensive mechanism through an army of molecules called antioxidants. They interact with the free radicals, neutralize them (i.e. make them neutral) and terminate the chain reaction, thereby preventing the damage to the cells.
Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants–along with vitamin C and beta-carotene–available for this task, scavenging in the body for free radicals. Although the term “vitamin E” looks like a single term, it is actually a family of eight molecules called tocopherols and tocotreinols in different structures called alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Vitamin E is soluble in fats and is found mostly in oil (sunflower, soya, palm) and in vegetables such as spinach and fruits such as kiwi. Of the eight forms, alpha- and gamma-tocopherols are predominantly found in the body. Very little is known about the functions of tocotreinols.
It is believed that vitamin E protects against certain diseases like heart disease, cancer and arthritis, but no conclusive clinical results have been established to prove the validity of this hypothesis. Hence, it is recommended that a medical practitioner be consulted before taking vitamin E supplements.
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