Without vitamin E, the body cannot reproduce. The importance of vitamin E for healthy reproduction was first discovered in feed-trial studies performed on rats from as far back as 1922. Today, we know vitamin E is an essential antioxidant, as a result of research showing it is essential in protecting and improving cellular health. Each and every part of the body is made up of trillions of cells, including the reproductive organs, the egg, and the sperm.
Alpha-tocopherol is the chemical name for the most active form of vitamin E. The term tocopherol comes from the Greek words tokos, which means “offspring,” and phero, which means “to bear”. Tocopherol literally means “to bear children”. Clearly vitamin E is essential to healthy fertility.
Primary Benefits of Vitamin E
Vitamin E functions primarily as an antioxidant, protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage. It has been shown to be especially effective for protecting nerve cells, red blood cells, and immune system function, aiding in the prevention of and healing of neurological disorders, chronic viral illness, and anemia, shared Michael T. Murray, M.D. in The Encylopedia of Nutritional Suppelements. Several studies have been performed in relation to fertility health, revealing its importance for reproductive function and health.
Vitamin E is incorporated into the lipid (fatty) part of the cell membrane, where it stabilizes and protects the cell membrane from toxic compounds including lead, mercury, and other heavy metals; toxic compounds such as benzene, carbon tetrachloride, cleaning solvents (all known endocrine disruptors); medications; radiation; and free-radicals. This is especially important for hormonal balance, as well as cellular health. Toxic compounds have been shown to contribute to infertility.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare, but there are some conditions in which low levels are common:
- Celiac disease
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Premature infants
- Sickle cell anemia and similar red blood cell disorders
- Fibrocystic breast disease
Increased Thickness For Thin Uterine Lining
A study published by Fertility and Sterility in April, 2010, showed that vitamin E supplementation may aid in increasing the thickness of the endometrium in women with thin uterine lining <8mm. Researchers wanted to see if these supplements could increase uterine radial artery (uRA) blood flow. Results showed vitamin E given at 600mg a day increased uRA in 72% of patients and endometrial thickness (EM) in 52% of patients.
Improved Sperm Health and Motility, Reduction in Miscarriage
Vitamin E is known to increase sperm health and motility. In one study, it was shown that sperm motility, percent of live sperm, and percent of normal spermatozoa all increased with the supplementation of vitamin E and selenium (Archives of Andrology > Journal of Reproductive Systems).
As mentioned previously, a study performed on rats whose diet was devoid of vitamin E showed those rats to become infertile – male rat’s sperm became immobile and female rats had a higher rate of miscarriages than rats who were not vitamin E deficient. The Journal of Biological Chemistry published research showing that once the rats were given wheat germ oil (naturally rich in vitamin E) as part of their diet, the rat’s fertility was restored.
Improved Glucose Metabolism and Insulin Activity for PCOS and Diabetes
Oxidative stress is a major concern for women who are trying to conceive and have either insulin resistant PCOS or diabetes. Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to improve insulin action. One study showed that non-insulin taking, otherwise healthy diabetics who took 1,310 IU of vitamin E for 4 months had improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. The researchers’ conclusion was that the vitamin E supplementation reduces oxidative stress, improving cell membrane physical characteristics and related activities in the transport of glucose. Speak with your doctor prior to using vitamin E at higher levels as part of a diabetes management plan.
Reduction in PMS Symptoms and Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) supplementation is common for the reduction of fibrocystic breast disease and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Premenstrual syndrome is cyclic and comes with many uncomfortable symptoms including, painful swelling of the breasts, bloating, water retention, cramping, headache, dizziness, foggy thinking, irritability and depression. Fibrocystic breast disease are benign tumors of the breast and often become painful and swollen with the onset of menstruation.
Studies, such as a 2009 double-blind clinical trial out of Iran of 150 women reported in the Breast Journal, indicate that women given 600 IU of vitamin E per day had a reduction in overall PMS symptoms, particularly fibrocystic breast disease. It appears the vitamin E normalizes hormone levels in both PMS and FBD patients.
Increased Success Rate for IVF
It has been shown that men who prepared with vitamin E prior to IVF treatment, with their partners, had an increase in rate of fertilization from 19% to 29%.
Miscarriage Prevention Support
Vitamin E in amounts up to 600 IU per day (use only 50 IU if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes) has been shown to help prevent miscarriage in women with a history of recurrent miscarriage.
Supports a Healthy Amniotic Sac in Pregnancy
Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to help prevent premature rupture of the membranes (amniotic sac) in pregnancy. It appears that vitamin E may increase the quality of the amniotic sac.
Vitamin E Supplementation
First and foremost, vitamin E should be consumed by eating a diet rich in a variety of different whole foods. Foods that are rich in vitamin E are: Raw vegetable oils, nuts, nut butters, sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, rice bran oil, barley, seaweed, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, berries, and tomatoes.
As you learned before, vitamin E is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals, stopping further damage from happening and protecting the cells’ health, but the body needs a variety of antioxidants to do this. Antioxidants work to stop free radicals by engulfing them, and then melding into its molecular structure. Antioxidants rely on other “sister” antioxidants to come and revive them, so they can continue on to stop free radicals from spreading and damaging cells. CoQ10, vitamin C and Lipoic Acid revive vitamin E. In order to be sure you are getting a wide variety of antioxidants, we suggest you supplement with a complete antioxidant supplement to protect cellular health.
There are several other natural tocopherols that demonstrate vitamin E activity and exert antioxidant activity, they are: d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta-, and a group of related compounds known as tocotrienols. These are not as strong as d-alpha, but still beneficial.
Suggested daily usage: 500mg a day of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols in addition to a diet rich in vitamin E foods.
- Murray, Michael T., N.D. (1996).Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally. Three Rivers Press.
- Mattill, H. H. and Clayton, M.M., (March 19, 1926). Vitamin E and Reproduction on Synthetic and Milk Diet. Vol. LXVII, No.3. Journal of Biological Chemistry. Retrieved from http://www.jbc.org/content/68/3/665.full.pdf
- Takasaki A, Tamura H, Miwa I, Taketani T, Shimamura K, Sugino N (April 2010). “Endometrial growth and uterine blood flow: a pilot study for improving endometrial thickness in the patients with a thin endometrium”. Fertil. Steril. 93 (6): 1851–8. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.12.062. PMID 19200982. Retrieved from: https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(08)04783-3/fulltext
- Keskes-Ammar, L., Feki-Chakroun, N., Rebai, T., Sahnoun, Z., Ghozzi, H., Hammami, S., … & Bahloul, A. (2003). Sperm oxidative stress and the effect of an oral vitamin E and selenium supplement on semen quality in infertile men. Archives of Andrology > Journal of Reproductive Systems, 49(2), 83-94. Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01485010390129269
- Parsay S, Olfati F, Nahidi S. (24 August 2009). Therapeutic Effects of Vitamin E on Cyclic Mastalgia. Breast J. 15(5):510-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2009.00768.x. Epub 2009 Jul 14. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1524-4741.2009.00768.x
- Rodriguez, H., C.H., C.M.T. (n.d.). 5 Steps To Decreasing the Chance of Recurrent Miscarriages. Retrieved from: https://natural-fertility-info.com/preventing-miscarriage
- Rodriguez, H., C.H., C.M.T. (n.d.). Antioxidants and Fertility. Retrieved from: https://natural-fertility-info.com/antioxidants-and-fertility.html