Vitamin E deficiency can cause structural brain damage

viteResearchers from Oregon State University have discovered the metabolic pathway to vitamin E interaction and how if affects the brain by interrupting the supply of nutrients. Zebrafish were used as the to investigate the impact of vitamin E on neuronal health. In the United States an estimated 96% of adult women and 90% of adult men do not receive enough vitamin E in their diet.

Vitamin E levels impacted on DHA-PC and lysoPLs both components of the cellular membrane of brain cells which interact with each other. Low levels of DHA-PC are associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. DHA is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and is identified by experts as one of the most important nutrients obtained from omega-3 fatty acids. These acids are commonly found in foods such as oils, flax, walnuts, and leafy dark green like spinach.

“You can’t build a house without the necessary materials,” says lead author Dr. Maret Traber. “In a sense, if vitamin E is inadequate, we’re cutting by more than half the amount of materials with which we can build and maintain the brain.”

“Human brains are very enriched in DHA but they can’t make it, they get it from the liver,” explains Dr. Traber. “The particular molecules that help carry it there are these lyso PLs, and the amount of those compounds is being greatly reduced when vitamin E intake is insufficient. This sets the stage for cellular membrane damage and neuronal death.”

“There’s increasingly clear evidence that vitamin E is associated with brain protection, and now we’re starting to better understand some of the underlying mechanisms,” concludes Dr. Traber. “This research showed that vitamin E is needed to prevent a dramatic loss of a critically important molecule in the brain, and helps explain why vitamin E is needed for brain health.”


Novel function of vitamin E in regulation of zebrafish (Danio rerio) brain lysophospholipids discovered using lipidomics, Maret G. Traber, et al., Journal of Lipid Research, doi: 10.1194/jlr.M058941, published 8 April 2015.

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