Physician’s Fact Sheet: Vitamin E

Written by Professor Anna Gray, Updated on November 29th, 2021, Published on March 8th, 2021

It’s important to know what different vitamins and minerals can do for you and your health. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to determine which supplements are right for you in terms of health and/or fitness goals. One vitamin that has many, many benefits for your health, and that you want to ensure you get the recommended amount, is vitamin E, or alpha-tocopherol.

Fast Facts on Vitamin E

There are water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins and vitamin E is the fat-soluble type. This means that more of the vitamin will be absorbed if you are consuming healthy fats with your supplement. Vitamin E actually comes in several different forms, or molecules, but alpha-tocopherol is the only one that the human body can readily use.

Alpha-tocopherol has many functions in our bodies, including boosting the immune system and the prevention of clots in the arteries of our hearts. In addition, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant. All antioxidants have the important job of reacting with free radicals and disabling them. Free radicals are typically known for causing premature aging (causing wrinkles and saggy skin) but they cause even worse damage than that, damaging cells and DNA, as well as contributing to atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). Free radicals are essentially loose electrons, not attached to an atom anymore, flying around the body and causing damage to anything in their path: cancer, vision loss and other chronic conditions are also byproducts of free radical damage.

It’s wonderful that we have so many antioxidants found in healthy foods that combat these horrible free radicals, including vitamin E! Vitamin E can literally stop the production of free radical cells entirely.

Signs of a Vitamin E Deficiency

Because many Americans are not eating the way that they should, vitamin deficiencies are becoming more commonplace these days. They are usually quite rare. Some people who have digestive issues such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease or pancreatitis, do not absorb the fat from food very well. A vitamin E deficiency can result.

  • Retinopathy: The retina of the eyes becomes damaged with vision loss
  • Ataxia: Loss of control of body movements
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Peripheral nerve damage (feet, hands); this can eventually lead to weakness and pain
  • Lowered immune system

Foods High in Vitamin E

Vitamin E is mainly found in plant foods, such as oils, nuts, seeds, etc.

  • sunflower, safflower and soybean oil
  • sunflower seeds
  • almonds
  • peanuts
  • pumpkin
  • leafy greens (collard, spinach, beet greens)
  • asparagus
  • mangos
  • avocados
  • red bell peppers

As you can see, this is a decent list of food items that I am sure anyone can find something that they like to eat, giving them enough vitamin E for proper health.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for alpha-tocopherol is 15 milligrams (mg), daily. Lactating women need slightly more, at 19 mg. Most people do not need a vitamin E supplement because our diets supply enough. In fact, if we consume extra, our liver will store the excess to use over the course of days when vitamin E consumption is less.

Vitamin E is one vitamin that is not recommended for supplementation. Some research has shown that taking vitamin E with the thought of preventing heart disease or cancer, in certain individuals, it can actually cause harm. Honestly, we recommend speaking to a doctor before taking a vitamin E supplement.

Luckily, it’s super easy to get enough vitamin E in your diet. Top your toast with avocado, peanut butter or almond butter instead of butter or mayo. Dip your apples in almond butter. Add wheat germ to oatmeal, smoothies or baked goods such as muffins, cakes or pancakes. Have a spinach salad with sunflower seeds, avocado and use a salad dressing with sunflower oil. Easy peasy!


Harvard: Nutrition Source

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