The Growing Focus on Vitamin E for Cognitive Performance, Mental Acuity and Brain Health

September 15, 2021
5 mins read
The Growing Focus on Vitamin E for Cognitive Performance, Mental Acuity and Brain Health
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Last Updated on March 5, 2024 by Randy Withers, LCMHC

The human brain serves as the command center for the entire human body: controlling actions and reactions, stimulating thinking and feeling, storing memories and many other necessary functions for life. The importance of a healthy brain can never be overstated—it should be the primary goal when it comes to promoting overall health and wellness.

Brain health naturally declines as people age, which is why it’s crucial for individuals to do what they can to promote longevity and deter aging in the brain. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the building blocks for good brain health, and good health overall. But there’s one vitamin in particular that is believed to combat the effects of stress and aging on the brain: Vitamin E. 

Read on to get to know why Vitamin E is one of the few nutrients that have been found to promote brain health, reducing oxidative stress and protecting this vital organ. 

The Growing Focus on Vitamin E for Cognitive Performance, Mental Acuity and Brain Health
The Growing Focus on Vitamin E for Cognitive Performance, Mental Acuity and Brain Health

The devastating effects of free radicals on the brain

When left unchecked by antioxidants, free radicals can wreak havoc throughout every part of the body, including the brain. An abundance of free radicals leads to oxidative stress that can damage the body’s cells. In some cases, oxidative stress can lead to a range of diseases and lead to symptoms of aging. Premature aging in the brain can be especially damaging. 

Studies suggest that free-radical induced oxidative damage which is particularly harmful to the brain due to its high content of fatty acids, high use of oxygen and, unfortunately, low levels of antioxidants. These conditions combined make the brain more vulnerable to oxidative injury. Oxidative stress can actually lead to an attack on brain cells, causing changes in the brain that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s disease occurs due to oxidation of brain lipids, carbohydrates, proteins and DNA. As oxidative stress begins to damage the brain, it starts to alter cells within the brain. There’s a natural increase in oxidation due to aging, and research has shown it’s the most consistent risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. As people age, the gradual accumulation of oxidative damage could account for the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants

Vitamin E is gaining ground as one of the most powerful antioxidants, limiting free radical production that, if left unchecked, can lead to oxidative stress. Researchers are engaged in ongoing studies in support of maintaining healthy Vitamin E levels, determining whether it can help prevent or delay some chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Vitamin E is fat soluble, which means your body stores it and uses it whenever free radicals are detected. As a person consumes Vitamin E, whether through food or supplements, it’s released from fat cells to scavenge free radicals before they contribute to oxidative stress and cause any long-term damage. 

Since oxidative stress impacts the entire body, including the appearance of your skin, boosting Vitamin E consumption and maintaining a healthy balance of antioxidants can provide many benefits. Research is ongoing when it comes to Vitamin E’s role in promoting brain health specifically, but early results are promising. 

The Benefits of Vitamin E. Courtesy, YouTube.

Merging links between Vitamin E and the brain

Vitamin E is an important nutrient for a healthy brain, and studies show that diets poor in the nutrient can be damaging to the brain—and even lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Human brains need DHA, a polyunsaturated fatty acid which is commonly found in Vitamin E-rich foods like oils, walnuts, eggs and leafy green vegetables. Adequate Vitamin E intake helps carry DHA to the brain, where it protects the brain against cellular membrane damage and neuronal death. Research indicates that inadequate levels of Vitamin E cuts the amount of this material to build and maintain the brain by more than half. 

Clear evidence shows that Vitamin E is associated with brain protection. Clinical trials typically only feature the use of the alpha-tocopherol form of Vitamin E, so the true extent of the entire Vitamin E family’s efficacy at preventing damage to the brain is yet to be fully discovered. 

Cognitive performance

Since the brain is so susceptible to the damaging effects of oxidative stress, especially as a person ages, many people see a decline in cognitive performance over time.

Studies show that high plasma vitamin E levels are consistently associated with better cognitive performance. As it combats the impact of oxidative stress, Vitamin E is believed to actively delay cognitive decline, even in older people and patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

While Vitamin E as a treatment for neurodegenerative disease is still being researched, studies have shown that adequate intake of Vitamin E supports healthy brain function, particularly in the elderly.

Anxiety and depression

The most common stress-induced mental health disorders are anxiety and depression. In recent years, studies have shown that defending the brain against oxidative damage can protect against nervous system disorders that lead to depressive disorder and anxiety. Research has shown that patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression often have significantly lower levels of Vitamin E compared to healthy patients.

After dietary supplementation, patients saw a significant reduction in their mental health symptoms and an increase in blood levels of healthy antioxidants.

Vitamin E helps protect the cellular components from oxidative stress, which can affect brain function. In individuals with GAD and depression, lower levels of Vitamin E may contribute to increased oxidative stress, potentially impacting neurotransmitter function and neural pathways associated with mood regulation. However, the exact mechanisms underlying this relationship are not fully understood, and further research is needed to elucidate the precise connection between Vitamin E levels and mental health disorders like GAD and depression.


Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to form new connections and adapt throughout life. From birth until death, the brain constantly reorganizes cells in response to experience and changing needs. Neuroplasticity is particularly important in terms of learning and memory. As people create new connections between neurons, the brain adapts to new circumstances. Luckily, neuroplasticity is something that can be encouraged and stimulated, and Vitamin E can help. 

Persistent symptoms following a traumatic brain injury encompass both immediate manifestations, such as headaches and dizziness, which endure over time, and delayed onset symptoms like depression and insomnia, which may emerge weeks or months post-incident. Fatigue is a common complaint following a brain injury due to the brain’s increased effort in performing tasks. Recovery and daily functioning also demand energy. Fortunately, fatigue is one of the more manageable symptoms to address. 

Diagnosing and treating cognitive complaints pose challenges for most healthcare providers. Various factors like vision problems, attention deficits, memory issues, or brain fog can contribute to difficulties such as reading struggles. Expertise in neurology and access to diagnostic tools are necessary for accurate diagnosis, highlighting the importance of experienced practitioners in addressing cognitive problems.

Vitamin E, particularly in the form of alpha-tocopherol, encourages positive effects in terms of brain plasticity. As the nutrient scavenges free radicals, it supports the synaptic functions that facilitate learning, and it’s even been shown to help counteract the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury.

Research is ongoing, but antioxidants remain important

While Vitamin E doesn’t exactly receive the star-status of other vitamins like A, B, C or D, its role as a powerful antioxidant can’t be understated. Research is ongoing, but throughout the years, scientists have come to a consensus that Vitamin E is an important free radical scavenger that prevents oxidative stress from doing damage in all cells throughout the body. 

In terms of brain health, studies are ongoing and show promising results when it comes to maintaining a vitamin E-rich diet. It may protect cognitive function and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and even depression as you age.

Antioxidants remain important for preventing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious diseases. They also fight the premature signs of aging, including wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots. It’s clear that antioxidants play a key role in promoting overall good health.

Boosting consumption of free radical-fighters can make a big difference in aging in a healthy way. 

Final Thoughts

Whether through diet or supplementation, it’s vital to get the daily recommended dose of Vitamin E, for the sake of mental health, cognitive function and the long-term health and wellness of your thinking brain. 

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Randy Withers, LCMHC

Randy Withers, LCMHC is a Board-Certified and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor at Practical Counseling and Wellness Solutions, LLC in North Carolina. He has masters degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lenoir-Rhyne University and Education from Florida State University, and is the managing editor of Blunt Therapy. He writes about mental health, therapy, and addictions. In his spare time, you can find him watching reruns of Star Trek: TNG with his dog. Connect with him on LinkedIn. If you are a NC resident looking for a new therapist, you can book an appointment with him.

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Randy Withers, LCMHC

Reviewed for accuracy by Randy Withers, MA, NCC, LCMHC, LCAS. Licensed Therapist and Managing Editor of Blunt Therapy

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