Vitamin E can be helpful for a lot of health problems, although it's not a cure for any of them. Here's a rundown of some current medical thinking:
Male infertility. Some men are infertile because of free radicals. Why? You probably haven'tever given this much thought, but the cell membranes of sperm are very fatty, so they're especially vulnerable to attack by free radicals. Taking Vitamin E supplements can help mop up enough free radicals to prevent the damage. In one study, five out of 15 infertile men becamefathers after just one month of 200 IU a day.
Benign breast disease. If you want to make your doctor squirm, ask him or her why this perfectly natural condition is called a disease. Benign breast disease makes your breasts feel “lumpy.” They might also swell and become tender when you're getting your period. It's uncomfortable and annoying, but usually benign breast disease isn't dangerous or a sign of breast cancer. We don't know exactly why this works, but taking anywhere from 200 to 600 IU of Vitamin E a day seems to relieve the symptoms for a lot of women.
Diabetes. Vitamin E supplements can help diabetics better control their blood sugar. The doses needed are generally on the high side—well over 400 IU—but the benefits are often worthwhile. If you have diabetes and want to try Vitamin E supplements, talk to your doctor first.
Eye health. The delicate blood vessels in your eyes are easily damaged by free radicals. A good supply of Vitamin E helps prevent the damage by sopping up the free radicals before they can do any harm. Likewise, Vitamin E helps protect the lens of your eye from free radical damage. People with low levels of Vitamin E are more likely to develop cataracts (clouding of the lens) as they get older. Studies show that people who take in 400 IU of Vitamin E a day could cut their cataract risk in half.
Intermittent claudication and leg cramps. Intermittent what? This is an annoying circulation problem that's caused by hardening of arteries in the legs. It makes your calf muscles ache and cramp up when you walk even a short distance. Vitamin E seems to help some people. If you want to try it, start with 200 IU daily for a week. If that doesn't help, try slowly increasing the dose, but don't go over 600 IU. Vitamin E also helps another annoying problem, nighttime leg cramps. Small doses of just 200 IU often do the trick. Take it with your evening meal.
Parkinson's disease. A long-term study is looking at whether Vitamin E, along with the drug selegiline (Deprenyl®), slows down the progression of this devastating brain disease. The evidence isn't in yet—if you have Parkinson's, talk to your doctor about Vitamin E and other supplements before you try them.