Vitamin E is a group of eight chemicals that enhance the body's antioxidation. These chemicals are separated into tocopherols and tocotrienols, and each of them is broken down into four different vitamers: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Of these eight chemical types, alpha-tocopherol best matches human nutritional needs.
In some circumstances, vitamin E can both stop the generation of free radicals and shield cells from their damage. Also, it improves immunological performance and prevents blood clots from developing in heart arteries.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, shielding the body against damage caused by exposure to environmental toxins, such as cigarette smoke and radiation. It also aids in maintaining a healthy immune system and promoting healthy skin and vision. Vitamin E may also play a role in maintaining heart health.
While studies have explored the potential of a vitamin E-rich diet for cancer prevention, the evidence supporting the idea that increasing dietary vitamin E or taking supplements will decrease one's chances of developing cancer is inconclusive.
For individuals at high risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a combination of vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, and zinc has been shown to offer some protection against the disease. Vitamin E alone, however, is not enough to reduce the risk of developing AMD.
Oxidative stress, which results from an imbalance between the body's antioxidant defenses and the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), can lead to cellular damage and more elevated disease risk. And since vitamin E acts as a potent antioxidant, high doses of it seem to diminish oxidative stress markers and improve antioxidant defenses in some populations.
For example, in a 2018 study, patients with kidney damage due to high blood sugar (diabetic nephropathy) who received 800 IU/day of vitamin E for 12 weeks had significantly higher levels of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GPx) than those who received a placebo. Likewise, a 2021 study found that, for eight weeks, daily supplementation of vitamins E and C combined lowered oxidative stress markers in women with endometriosis.
High blood pressure and elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides can increase the risk of developing heart disease. Vitamin E supplements have shown promise in reducing heart disease risk factors in some people.
Research suggests that taking vitamin E with omega-3 supplements may help lower LDL and triglyceride levels in people with metabolic syndrome, a set of conditions that raises the risk of heart disease and other health issues.
Additionally, a 2019 review of 18 studies found that vitamin E supplements significantly reduced systolic blood pressure but not diastolic blood pressure compared to placebo treatments.
A diet rich in fresh, minimally processed foods is the best way of obtaining vitamin E, which is vulnerable to heat, especially with cooking methods like deep frying. Foods that are rich sources of vitamin E include:
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E for males and females aged 14 years and older is 15 mg daily, including pregnant individuals; lactating ones need slightly more at 19 mg (28 IU) daily. Vitamin E is also measured in International Units (IU), with a daily value of 22.4 IU for natural vitamin E and 33.3 IU for synthetic vitamin E.
Although vitamin E deficiency is usually uncommon, certain groups are more likely to be affected. Those with medical conditions associated with impaired fat absorption, such as cystic fibrosis and Crohn's disease, are at a higher risk.
Moreover, individuals with rare inherited disorders, like abetalipoproteinemia (a rare inherited disorder that impairs the body's ability to absorb dietary fats and fat-soluble vitamins), may also have a higher likelihood of developing a vitamin E deficiency. Those with nutritionally poor diets, such as children living in underdeveloped countries and people with anorexia nervosa, may also experience a vitamin E deficiency due to malnutrition.
Peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord), ataxia (a neurological disorder that affects movement and coordination), skeletal myopathy (muscle weakness and wasting), retinopathy, and immune response impairment are among the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency.
While it is rare to overdose on food-based vitamin E, taking too much of the nutrient through supplements can cause side effects and harm your health. Research has shown an increased risk of prostate cancer related to excessive use of vitamin E supplements in healthy men.
Furthermore, high doses of vitamin E supplements can lead to excess bleeding, especially if taken with blood-thinning medications like warfarin. Due to this potential for damage, there is a set upper limit for vitamin E supplements of 1000 mg daily (1465 IU) for adults aged 19 years and older, regardless of the form of tocopherol.
1. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2023). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 14985, Vitamin E. Retrieved February 24, 2023 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Vitamin-E.
2. Vitamin E and your health. (2022, May). Healthdirect. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vitamin-e-and-your-health
3. Pizzino, G., Irrera, N., Cucinotta, M., Pallio, G., Mannino, F., Arcoraci, V., Squadrito, F., Altavilla, D., & Bitto, A. (2017). Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 8416763. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/8416763
4. Aghadavod, E., Soleimani, A., Hamidi, G., Keneshlou, F., Heidari, A., & Asemi, Z. (2018). Effects of High-dose Vitamin E Supplementation on Markers of Cardiometabolic Risk and Oxidative Stress in Patients with Diabetic Nephropathy: a Randomized Double-blinded Controlled Trial. Iranian journal of kidney diseases, 12(3), 156–162.
5. Amini, L., Chekini, R., Nateghi, M. R., Haghani, H., Jamialahmadi, T., Sathyapalan, T., & Sahebkar, A. (2021). The Effect of Combined Vitamin C and Vitamin E Supplementation on Oxidative Stress Markers in Women with Endometriosis: A Randomized, Triple-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Pain research & management, 2021, 5529741. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/5529741
6. Asbaghi, O., Choghakhori, R., & Abbasnezhad, A. (2019). Effect of Omega-3 and vitamin E co-supplementation on serum lipids concentrations in overweight patients with metabolic disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Diabetes & metabolic syndrome, 13(4), 2525–2531. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2019.07.001
7. Emami, M. R., Safabakhsh, M., Alizadeh, S., Asbaghi, O., & Khosroshahi, M. Z. (2019). Effect of vitamin E supplementation on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of human hypertension, 33(7), 499–507. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41371-019-0192-0
8. Teo, C. W. L., Tay, S. H. Y., Tey, H. L., Ung, Y. W., & Yap, W. N. (2021). Vitamin E in Atopic Dermatitis: From Preclinical to Clinical Studies. Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland), 237(4), 553–564. https://doi.org/10.1159/000510653
9. Lakhan, R., Sharma, M., Batra, K., & Beatty, F. B. (2021). The Role of Vitamin E in Slowing Down Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Narrative Review. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 9(11), 1573. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9111573
10. Browne, D., McGuinness, B., Woodside, J. V., & McKay, G. J. (2019). Vitamin E and Alzheimer's disease: what do we know so far?. Clinical interventions in aging, 14, 1303–1317. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S186760
11. Meydani, S. N., Lewis, E. D., & Wu, D. (2018). Perspective: Should Vitamin E Recommendations for Older Adults Be Increased?. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 9(5), 533–543. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmy035
12. Ghaffari, J., Farid Hossiani, R., Khalilian, A., Nahanmoghadam, N., Salehifar, E., & Rafatpanah, H. (2014). Vitamin e supplementation, lung functions and clinical manifestations in children with moderate asthma: a randomized double blind placebo- controlled trial. Iranian journal of allergy, asthma, and immunology, 13(2), 98–103.
13. Hanson, C., Lyden, E., Furtado, J., Campos, H., Sparrow, D., Vokonas, P., & Litonjua, A. A. (2016). Serum tocopherol levels and vitamin E intake are associated with lung function in the normative aging study. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), 35(1), 169–174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2015.01.020
14. Vitamins and minerals | Dietary sources of vitamin E. (2022, August 7). Better Health Channel. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Vitamins-and-minerals
15. Office of Dietary Supplements. (2021, March 26). National Institutes of Health. Vitamin E - Health Professional Fact Sheet. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
16. Oliveras-López, M. J., Ruiz-Prieto, I., Bolaños-Ríos, P., De la Cerda, F., Martín, F., & Jáuregui-Lobera, I. (2015). Antioxidant activity and nutritional status in anorexia nervosa: effects of weight recovery. Nutrients, 7(4), 2193–2208. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7042193
17. Traber M. G. (2014). Vitamin E inadequacy in humans: causes and consequences. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 5(5), 503–514. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.114.006254