A British study conducted at King’s College in London in collaboration with the University of Nottingham found an association between the amount of vitamin E with have in our bodies, the amount of air pollution we are exposed to and the health of our lungs.
This study showed that vitamin E may well protect us against the damages created by environmental pollution, particularly that seen in city air, but at this stage requires further study to ensure confidence in this link. However, this was a large twin study (of 5,500 volunteers from the TwinsUK study) and found that certain types of particles in the atmosphere were significantly correlated to both the health of our lungs and evidence in our blood of vitamin E (known as alpha tocopherol). This highlights the possibility that air pollution contributes to oxidative damage in our lungs (you may have heard of the expression “free radicals” or “oxidative stress”) and that vitamin E to some degree counteracts this damage. However, there’s no evidence just yet that supplementing with vitamin E is helpful.
Vitamin E is not difficult to get from our diet. People who live or work regularly in inner cities are recommended to ensure their diets are rich in foods that have an “anti-oxidant” effect, and most of the best sources come from fruit and vegetables. Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) itself is particularly rich in:
- Nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts
- Seeds such as sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pine nuts
- Herbs and spices like oregano, ginger, chilli. basil, sage, thyme
- Whole grains
Daily recommended intake is of vitamin E 6mg for women, 8mg for men and this can be obtained by eating a portion of hazelnuts and almonds (25-30g) or nut butters each day and using seed oils (such as safflower or sunflower) . Never take this vitamin in high doses as a supplement as it can cause some unpleasant side effects and interfere with the absorption of other important vitamins.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat.