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Vitamin E Vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

by
author image Alex Folkl
Alex Folkl has been writing for more than eight years and has had work appear in several peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed scientific publications. He has a bachelor's degree in biology, a master's degree in pathobiology, and an MD.
Vitamin E Vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin E and omega-3's: Two separate supplements with different health benefits. Photo Credit Gunay Mutlu/Photodisc/Getty Images

Vitamin E is an antioxidant taken primarily for its presumed anti-aging and anti-cancer effects. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat consumed primarily for their presumed beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and a variety of medical conditions. While both are safe if consumed in low amounts--for example, the amounts you might find in a typical meal--both can be unhealthy if consumed in excessive amounts.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is one of the fat-soluble vitamins--the others being A, D and K--which is touted as having health benefits for its antioxidant properties. It is found primarily in nuts and seeds, but is also found in significant amounts in green vegetables and breakfast cereals, with the latter frequently fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a kind of unsaturated fat. They are known primarily for their presumed beneficial effects on heart disease and cognitive function. They may also play a role in reducing inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fatty fish, such as tuna, mackerel and herring.

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Vitamin E Benefits

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it scavenges for a chemical known as a "free radical." The concept of "free radicals" has to do with the number of electrons a molecule has. Usually, electrons come in pairs; a "free radical" molecule has one unpaired electron which, in the process of trying to find its mate, damages the membranes, proteins and DNA of cells in your body. This may cause premature aging and cancer. Free radicals are generated in the process of normal cellular metabolism. They're also generated by the environment, including sunlight, the air you breathe and the foods you eat.

Omega-3 Benefits

Consumption of omega 3 fatty acids appears to help lower blood triglycerides and your overall risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also may be helpful in reducing inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They are also consumed for a wide range of conditions for which there is less scientific support, including menstrual pain, attention deficit disorder, depression and psoriasis.

Safety

Consumption of vitamin E in food form has not been linked to any health problems. However, consumption of high doses of vitamin E--for example, via supplements--may increase your risk of heavy bleeding. For this reason, the safe daily upper limit of vitamin E consumption has been set at 1,000 milligrams.

Taking high doses of omega-3 fatty acids, which would usually occur only with fish oil supplements, can also lead to an increased risk of heavy bleeding. Also, too much omega-3 can increase your blood concentration of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, which can lead to atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.

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