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Physiological Effects of Vitamin E

Peter T. Pugliese, MD

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In the September 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine, Peter T. Pugliese, MD, discusses how vitamin E affects the skin in the article "Vitamin E: A Skin Care Ally." Following is more information from Dr. Pugliese regarding how the vitamin works in other bodily functions, as well.

Sometimes in life you have great and exciting experiences, one of which is discovering new things. It’s like opening a door to a new house and walking down a hallway only to find many more doors that open to wondrous rooms filled with beautiful things of all types. Vitamin E is such a discovery, and after 80 years, only parts of its function are beginning to be understood.

The absorption of vitamin E occurs in the small intestine with other lipids where it is acted on by enzymes called esterases and bile acid. Vitamin E is then absorbed into the intestinal wall, called the mucosa and, along with other lipids, are formed in little lipid spheres called micelles, in which form it enters cells known as enterocytes. In the enterocytes, the lipids, including vitamin E, are formed into structures called chylomicrons, which are then transferred from the enterocyte into the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system carries the chylomicrons into the blood stream, which delivers their contents to individual cells. After reaching the liver, the vitamin E combined with the chylomicrons is released and then bound to a protein known as alpha tocopherol transfer protein that is in the cell cytoplasm. From here, it is carried to the endoplasmic reticulum and packaged in lipoproteins of the low density type, or VLDL. The largest amount of vitamin is found in the fatty tissue, though no particular tissue is selected as a storage area, for it can be found in the adrenals, lungs, muscles and heart. The adipose tissue releases the vitamin E slowly, while the liver turns it over rapidly. As a result, the amount of vitamin E in the liver can be used as a measure of vitamin E dietary intake. The reader should note that any disorder of the pancreas or the bowel can markedly decrease the vitamin E absorption. Vitamin E is excreted mainly via the bowel of the kidneys.

Free radicals and antioxidants

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