Physician’s Fact Sheet: Vitamin E

Written by Professor Anna Gray, Updated on April 13th, 2024
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Knowing what different vitamins and minerals can do for you and your health is essential.

The more you know, the better you’ll be able to determine which supplements are right for you regarding your health and/or fitness goals.

One vitamin that has 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 consume healthy fats with your supplement. Vitamin E comes in several different forms or molecules, but alpha-tocopherol is the only one 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 are vital to reacting with free radicals and disabling them. Free radicals are typically known for causing premature aging (causing wrinkles and saggy skin).

Still, they cause even worse damage than that, damaging cells and DNA and 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 terrific 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 as they should, vitamin deficiencies are becoming more commonplace these days.

They are usually quite rare. Some people with 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 to prevent heart disease or cancer in specific individuals can actually cause harm.

We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking a vitamin E supplement.

Luckily, getting enough vitamin E in your diet is super easy. 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 and avocado, and use a salad dressing with sunflower oil. Easy peasy!


Harvard: Nutrition Source

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