The human body is capable of maintaining good health so long as we provide it with the proper nutrients it needs. One of the things those nutrients do is support the body’s ability to manufacture enough energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules. Vitamin E plays a crucial role in that process.
Vitamin E was discovered in 1922 by Herbert McLean Evans and Katharine Scott Bishop. The initial discovery came in the form of tocopherols; later research in the mid-1960s revealed a second form of vitamin E called tocotrienols.
Forty-five years after Evans and Bishop’s discovery, an article in JAMA titled “Vitamin in Search of a Disease” reviewed the research behind vitamin E. The researchers could find no information about exactly what vitamin E does in the body.
Well, science has finally uncovered the details about vitamin E. What we call vitamin E is actually made up of a group of similar compounds that have very special functions.
Each cell in the human body has a protective outer membrane that is composed of a bilayer, meaning that the membrane is two molecules thick. The outer membrane is water-soluble while the inner membrane is fat-soluble. This bilayer membrane is designed to facilitate the movement of nutrients into the cell to stimulate and support cellular machinery.
In addition, the membrane works to keep out harmful substances that could injure or kill the cell.
But the fat-soluble side of the cell membrane can be damaged by lipid peroxidation. When this happens, the cells become leaky and swollen. As the damage increases, the cells lose their ability to function optimally.
This sets the stage for poor energy production, which can lead to disease.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that protects the cell membrane from lipid peroxidation. In fact, vitamin E resides within the cell membrane in order to minimize the damage from lipid peroxidation.
How is vitamin E able to reside within the membrane? It just so happens that it has the ideal structure: It’s part fat-soluble and part water-soluble — just like our cell membranes. It’s a perfect design.
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