Vitamin E Sources Benefits & Risks

June 1, 2019

Vitamin E is an important nutrient for health and is found in a variety of foods and supplements. The best way to consume this vitamin is through a healthy diet. Deficiency is rare and overdose through the use of supplements is a problem. People who suffer from certain health conditions or take certain medications should be cautious about using supplements.

Sources of vitamin E
Vitamin E is a family of fat-soluble compounds.” It occurs naturally in eight different forms, including four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta) and four tocotrienols. Alpha tocopherol is the most common and potent form of the vitamin,” says Elizabeth Sommer, a registered dietitian and author of “The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals” (HarperTorch, 1993).

Good dietary sources of vitamin E include nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts, and vegetable oils, such as sunflower, wheat germ, safflower, corn, and soybean oil, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Sunflower seeds and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, also contain vitamin E.

How much vitamin E do you need?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E for people over 14 years of age is 15 mg (or 22.4 International Units, or IU). Women who are breastfeeding may need a little more vitamin E, so the RDA for breastfeeding women is 19 mg (28.4 IU). Doses below 1,000 mg (1,500 IU) appear to be safe for most adults.

For infants up to 6 months of age, the RDA is 4 mg (6 IU), and 5 mg (7.5 IU) for ages 6 months to 1 year. According to the National Institutes of Health, the RDA for vitamin E is 6 milligrams (9 IU), 7 milligrams (10.4 IU), and 11 milligrams (16.4 IU) for ages 1 to 3, 4 to 8, and 9 to 13 years, respectively.

Most people are able to get enough vitamin E from a healthy diet and do not need supplements. Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you are taking medications. According to Drugs.com, there are over 250 drugs known to interact with vitamin E.

Vitamin E Deficiency.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin E deficiency is rare, although some people are more prone to vitamin E deficiency than others; infants and young children, people with poor fat absorption and abetalipoproteinemia (a condition that prevents the body from fully absorbing certain dietary fats) are more likely to be deficient in vitamin E. Anemia, musculoskeletal disorders, ataxia, peripheral neuropathy. Retinopathy, retinopathy, immune response disorders and nerve damage are all possible signs of vitamin E deficiency.

Efficacy
Adding a source of vitamin E to your diet can provide many benefits.

As a fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin E functions primarily as an antioxidant, which means it helps protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.

“It protects cells from damage, and it may help reduce the risk [of heart disease to cancer] of all kinds of health problems, possibly even dementia,” Somer told Live Science.

In addition to providing cell protection, vitamin E is vital for a properly functioning immune system. As a powerful antioxidant, it helps cells fight off infections.

This vitamin also helps protect vision. A 2015 study by the Department of Epidemiology and Health Statistics at Qingdao University School of Medicine found that vitamin E intake and high serum-tocopherol levels were associated with a reduced risk of age-related cataracts.

Vitamin E plays an important role in the production of hormones known as prostaglandins, which are responsible for regulating a variety of bodily processes, such as blood pressure and muscle contraction. In addition, a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine in 2015 found that vitamin E helps with muscle repair after exercise, Sommer said.

People with Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis or an inability to produce bile from the liver into the digestive tract may need to take a water-soluble, supplemental form of vitamin E to avoid digestive problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Risks.
Some people may be sensitive to vitamin E supplements, according to the Mayo Clinic. Consumption of vitamin E supplements can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, weakness, fatigue, headaches, and rashes.

According to Georgia Highlands College, as a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E is stored in the body and excess vitamins are not flushed out through the urinary tract, unlike water-soluble vitamins. This property means that vitamin E builds up to toxic levels over time, so it is possible to overdose on this vitamin.

According to the Mayo Clinic, too much vitamin E supplementation can lead to excessive bleeding and many other symptoms, including fatigue, nausea, blurred vision and gonadal dysfunction. Sommer advises that this vitamin is also a mild blood thinner, so taking high doses of vitamin E before surgery is discouraged.