Vitamin E may be one of the most effective natural remedies for high blood pressure. Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble nutrients (tocopherols and tocotrienols) of which alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol are the most common dietary forms.
Vitamin E and blood pressure
A clinical trial involving 70 people with newly diagnosed high blood pressure (blood pressures between 140/90 mmHg and 160/100 mmHg) were asked to take either 200 IU vitamin E (134mg) or placebo every day for 27 weeks.
At the end of the study, there was a ‘remarkable’ 24% decrease in systolic blood pressure (upper number) in those taking vitamin E compared with a fall of just 1.6% in those taking placebo. For diastolic blood pressure (lower number) there was a fall of 12.5% in those taking vitamin E compared with a reduction of 6.2% in those on placebo.
- The average change in blood pressure in those taking vitamin E was from 154.5/95 mmHg down to 117.4/83.1 mmHg.
- In those taking placebo, the average change in blood pressure was from 153.1/93.1 mmHg down to 150.6/87.3 mmHg).
This study, which found vitamin E supplements lowered blood pressure by an average of 37/12.9 mmHg, suggests that vitamin E is a better blood pressure lowering medicine than most prescribed drugs! The researchers suggest that a daily dose of 200 IU vitamin E supplements should be recommended to people with mild hypertension as a first-line attempt to control blood pressure.
Some other trials have not found an effect of vitamin E against hypertension, however. One study involving 58 people with type 2 diabetes found that taking high dose vitamin E (500 mg, or 750 IU per day) was associated with a rise in blood pressure.
How vitamin E lowers blood pressure
Vitamin E is best known as an antioxidant that protects cell membranes, nerves and circulating cholesterol molecules from oxidation. It also has a mild anti-inflammatory action and has a strengthening effect on muscle fibres. The antioxidant effect of vitamin E on blood vessel linings is believed to increase the release of nitric oxide, which has a powerful ability to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
Vitamin E deficiency
Lack of vitamin E has a harmful effect on the nervous system and can produce symptoms such as lack of energy, lethargy, poor concentration, irritability, muscle weakness and poor co-ordination. Severe, long-term deficiency (such as that due to malabsorption) can lead to loss of vision, dementia and abnormal heart rhythms.
Vitamin E from foods
The main food sources of vitamin E are wheatgerm oil, avocado, butter, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds. Heating and freezing destroys vitamin E so fresh raw foods are the best sources.
Vitamin E from supplements
Select a supplement that supplies natural source vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) rather than synthetic alpha-tocopherol (dl-alpha tocopherol) which has less biological activity due to the different symmetries of the molecules present.
Select supplements containing natural source vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol). High dose vitamin E is best taken together with other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, mixed carotenoids and selenium. Adequate supplies of vitamin C in particular are important as this regenerates vitamin E after it has acted as an antioxidant.
Vitamin E activity is sometimes expressed in International Units (IU) rather than milligrams. 1 IU = 0.67 mg alpha-tocopherol equivalents or conversely: 1mg = 1.5 IU
Vitamin E dose
The EU RDA for vitamin E is 12 mg (18 IU) while the US DV is 20mg (30 IU). The tolerable upper intake level for long-term use from supplements is suggested as 300mg (450 IU) in the EU, while in the US the upper safe level for adults is around three times higher (1,500 IU or 1,000 mg per day) for supplements providing natural vitamin E.
Certainly the dose of 200 IU (134mg) found to lower blood pressure in people with mild hypertension is well within the tolerable intake level for long-term use.
Vitamin E safety
In people with type 2 diabetes, high doses of vitamin E (750 IU) were found to increase blood pressure so monitor blood pressure carefully if you choose to try the lower dose of 200 IU.
High intakes of vitamin E can cause headache, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, double vision, muscle weakness, but this only usually occurs above doses of 3000mg daily.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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