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You have probably heard how dangerous excessively high triglyceride and cholesterol levels can be; they are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. Recent research provides yet another reason why reducing triglycerides and cholesterol levels that are too high should be one of your biggest priorities: high cholesterol and triglycerides can get in the way of the important vitamin E benefits for your health by preventing this vitamin from getting to the tissues that need it.
Vitamin E Benefits
Vitamin E plays a role in preventing and treating a variety of diseases and conditions. It is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting compound  with numerous health benefits, including:
- Stimulating the immune system and keeping it healthy as we age [1,2]
- Reducing cardiovascular disease risk, including the risk of heart attack 
- Improving lung function 
- Promoting eye health and reducing the risk of age-related cataracts 
The biggest sources of vitamin E in our diet are nuts, seeds, and vegetables, especially in oils like vegetable oils. A true vitamin E deficiency is very rare in humans. Symptoms include muscle weakness, vision problems, numbness, difficulty with walking and balance, and a compromised immune system.
Some researchers are calling for the need to reduce the recommended daily intake of vitamin E, because few adults show signs of deficiency. However, estimates show that about 90% of Americans who don’t take dietary supplements do not consume sufficient levels of this vital nutrient. And what’s more, measuring vitamin E levels in the blood might not be an accurate evaluation of how much the tissues of our body are actually getting.
Vitamin E Absorption in the Body
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that the absorption, transport, and distribution to the body’s tissues are highly depended on dietary fat. Once ingested, vitamin E circulates in the body bound to lipids. Higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides have been associated with higher levels of vitamin E in the blood. But this does not mean that the body is getting more vitamin E; in fact, recent findings show it likely means the opposite.
Linking High Triglycerides and Cholesterol with Poor Vitamin E Function
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) were associated with higher levels of α-tocopherols (a type of vitamin E) in the blood. But these higher levels did not correlate to a higher rate of absorption of the vitamin. Instead, the authors determined that as total lipids increased, the longer α-tocopherol remained in circulation and the slower it was taken up by tissues. When lipids are high, vitamin E is stuck circulating through the bloodstream instead of being distributed to tissues that need it. They estimated that only 24% of the vitamin E ingested actually made it to tissues in the body.
The researchers also found that plasma α-tocopherol levels were higher in older participants compared to younger participants; triglycerides and cholesterol tend to increase with age. These results highlight the importance of reducing triglycerides and cholesterol, especially as we age, which could help us to get the vitamin E we need to stay healthy.
According to Maret Traber, lead author on this new study, the recommended daily intake of 15 mg is not too high, as some critics suggest. Many of us, especially people who have high lipids, might not be getting as much as we need.
Share Your Experience with Vitamin E
How do you lower triglycerides and cholesterol naturally? Share your tips in the comments section below.
This post was originally published in 2015. It is regularly updated.