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Though some recent studies have thrown a bit of a damper on vitamin E and Beta-carotene as cure alls for the three major killers (heart disease, cancer and diabetes), the news is more positive when it comes to other conditions.

Beta-carotene and vitamin E are antioxidants, substances that help protect cells from the damage that takes place as your body uses oxygen to power everyday living, if not kept in check this process (called oxidation) accelerates many of the degenerative changes of aging.

Car mechanics recognize oxidation as the cause of rust and corrosion on your car, so you can imagine what it’s capable of doing to your skin! Wrinkles, discoloration, loss of elasticity, thickening these are all the results of oxidation. Smoking accelerates the process, which makes skin health yet another reason to quit this nasty habit for good.

Vitamin E has been shown to improve skin moisture, softness and smoothness. It also provides some protection from sun damage and when eaten in combination with vitamin C (another antioxidant), it may help prevent photoaging, the damage to the skin that results from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

   
 

Beta-carotene reduces the redness the redness some people experience when they’re exposed to the sun, but taking too much can turn your skin a shade of orange. This is a non-toxic side effect, but it’s not particularly attractive!

Several years ago, a major clinical trial found that taking high levels of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamin E, significantly reduced the risk of developing age related macular degeneration. The trial, called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, used very specific amounts of supplemental beta-carotene and vitamin E, as well as vitamin C, zinc and copper, to combat this leading cause of blindness.

Food sources of beta-carotene abound; taking high doses in supplement form is not recommended. This is especially important if you’re a smoker, because beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in people who can’t kick the habit.

Foods rich in beta-carotene are usually orange in color, such as carrots, sweet potato, papaya, apricots and cantaloupe; but kale, spinach and other dark leafy greens are excellent sources as well.

   

Dietary sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, nuts, seeds, nut butters, olive oil canola oil and avocado. These foods are also high in fat and calories, so if you’re trying to lose weight, be sure to moderate your portions.


 
 
 
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