As we age, our bodies become less and less efficient at producing and absorbing the vital nutrients we need to survive. It’s why so many different health conditions are much more prevalent in older populations. This is especially true for vitamin deficiencies. Older bodies tend to depend on vitamins more heavily, which makes supplementation so important for seniors. Such is the case with Vitamin E.
Studies show that, as is the case for most vitamin groups, Vitamin E has a high potential to become deficient in those over the age of 55. While the reason is still unknown, it’s largely linked to reduced efficiency of the body to absorb and use vitamins—even when we maintain a good diet.
For individuals approaching their Golden Years or who already struggle with vitamin deficiency due to a chronic condition, it’s important to discuss Vitamin E supplementation with a physician, before it begins to take a toll on physical health.
Evidence of Vitamin E decline in older populations
Evidence of a correlation between Vitamin E deficiency and advanced age comes from several studies—the most notable of which took place in 2008. The study, conducted in Italy, focused specifically on the vitamin levels of a random sampling of 698 people, aged 65 or older. Researchers observed the levels of micronutrients including folate, iron and vitamins B6, B12, D and E.
The study, which took place over a three-year period, compared the nutrient levels of individuals to their ability to perform simple physical tasks: walking speed, rising repeatedly from a chair, and standing balance. Through observation of nutrient levels and physical performance, researchers made a significant discovery. From the study:
"We evaluated the effects of several micronutrients and only vitamin E was significantly associated with decline in physical function. The odds of declining in physical function was 1.62 times greater in persons with low levels of vitamin E compared with persons with higher levels."
The study went on to conclude that while appropriate dietary intake of Vitamin E was likely to benefit physical function in people, supplementation may be advantageous for aging individuals.
Further studies are needed to determine the mechanism by which low levels of Vitamin E impact physical performance in seniors.
Increasing Vitamin E intake: two ways
For most elderly individuals, a change in the rate of metabolism is the cause of vitamin deficiency. To combat this, it’s generally recommended to vary the sources of different vitamins and to stagger consumption to increase bioavailability. For seniors with Vitamin E deficiency, it leaves two chief options:
- Eating more Vitamin E-rich foods. Elderly individuals may face vitamin deficiency due to diet imbalance or restricted diet. Adding Vitamin E rich foods throughout the day can help to improve metabolization. Easy foods to incorporate include raw vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, leafy greens and ocean fish. Eating a salad with avocado and almonds for lunch, with salmon fried in sunflower oil for dinner is a great way to increase Vitamin E intake throughout the day.
- Supplementing Vitamin E. Supplementing is often a simple way for seniors to get the vitamin content they lack. Supplementing in the morning or in small doses multiple times per day can have a positive effect on the availability of Vitamin E and the body’s ability to process it. When it comes to supplementation, it’s vital to speak with a physician to ensure seniors aren’t over-supplementing or supplementing a diet already rich in Vitamin E.
Vitamin E isn’t a prevalent nutrient, which makes increasing intake a purposeful endeavor. Seniors need to be aware of a deficiency and make specific efforts to increase daily Vitamin E intake.
Consult with a physician first
The generally recommended Vitamin E intake per day for an adult is 15mg. Before making any changes to a diet or supplement regimen, seniors absolutely need to speak with a physician and have their levels checked. While Vitamin E deficiency is linked to physical decline, over-supplementing can lead to toxicity and its own array of problems. A physician will be able to advise the right approach to modulating Vitamin E levels in seniors.
Why is Vitamin E important for aging individuals?
Older bodies are already under tremendous stress, for a variety of reasons. Physical decline is simply a symptom of aging; however, it’s exacerbated by Vitamin E deficiency. While there’s no cure for aging, seniors should make every effort to slow and mitigate the effects of time on their bodies. When it comes to physical health and wellbeing, it may mean consulting a physician about how to supplement Vitamin E deficiency.