Antioxidants are vitamins that protect cells from free radicals. Free radicals occur from a reaction between cells and certain chemicals (such as smoke); in additional free radicals are produced by normal cell activities (basically a type of waste product). Free radicals can cause cell deterioration and in some cases cause cells to become abnormal (sometimes converting them to cancerous).
Antioxidants such as vitamin E, help prevent damage to the cell (causing it to be dysfunctional) and unable to perform its intended function. Vitamin E deficiency symptoms will are caused by certain cell’s inability to complete tasks that make the body work properly.
Cell Malfunctions Caused by Vitamin E Deficiency Symptoms
Vitamin E deficiency symptoms are most often seen in premature infants. These newborns have low levels of vitamin E in the body when they are born. Infants that are premature are at greater risk of vitamin E deficiency symptoms due to eating and absorption problems from an underdeveloped digestive system. A possible life threatening anemia occurs in an infant that causes red blood cells to rupture and produce hemorrhaging (bleeding).
If this occurs in vital organs (such as the brain); permanent damage may be sustained. Premature infants with vitamin E deficiency can also suffer from abnormal growth of the eyes (retinopathy of prematurity) which can lead to decreased visual acuity or blindness. The muscles of the baby may also be affected. Vitamin E deficiency symptoms can be caught early when a baby is born if blood tests to evaluate red cell abnormality are conducted at birth.
Vitamin E deficiency symptoms in adults is a lot less common because it is a fat soluble vitamin that can be stored for future use. Water soluble vitamins (like Vitamin C) must be consumed frequently (to replenish them) since they are flushed out in the urine. Fat soluble vitamins are held in the adipose (fat) tissue cell’s fluid. Depleting it’s stores takes the body a length of time that usually allow it to bring levels back to normal, and vitamin E deficiency symptoms never appear. Occasionally though adult cases of vitamin E deficiency symptoms are reported. Vitamin E deficiency symptoms are:
- Balance problems
- Trouble walking
- Muscle weakness
Even though a person may not show vitamin E deficiency symptoms; the body loses the protective benefit of the antioxidant effects. The effects help guard the body from cancers, Alzheimer’s, and other degenerative (destructive) conditions. Some conditions have research data that support and dispute both sides of these claims.
Foods that can be consumed to provide vitamin E:
- Oils (such as vegetable)
- Green leafy vegetables (like spinach)
- Whole grains
- Sunflower seeds
- Fortified cereals
- Nuts and Peanut Butter
Vitamin E supplements can be taken in appropriate quantities for additional amounts not obtained in the diet. The recommended daily allowances for adults and children over 14 years of age should be 15 mg (22.4 IU) per day. Children have a graduated dosage scale according to age:
- 0-6 months require 4 mg (6 IU) per day
- 7-12 months require 5 mg (7.5 IU) per day
- 1-3 years of age require 6 mg (9 IU) per day
- 4-8 years of age require 7 mg (10.4 IU)
- 9-13 years of age require 11 mg (16.4 IU)
Unfortunately methods of testing for vitamin E deficiency symptoms are not accurate at this time. Diagnosis can only be made by presence of symptoms and eating a well rounded diet is the best way to prevent deficiency.