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Vitamin E

Other name(s):

alpha tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol, tocotrienol, 5,7,8 trimethyl-tocotrienol

General description

Vitamin E is a series of fat-soluble compounds called tocopherols. Alpha-tocopherol is the most potent and widely used form of vitamin E. Tocopherols are found in the oily residue of plants. Tocotrienols are also found in plants and have vitamin E-like activity.

Vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin A are the antioxidant vitamins, and protect the body from oxidative damage.

Vitamin E is a major antioxidant in the body and works together with selenium to help prevent oxidation of certain enzymes important to the body's metabolic processes. Vitamin E is found in all cell membranes of the body and protects them from oxidative damage.

Vitamin E has been used when treating respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants.

Medically valid uses

Vitamin E prevents retrolental fibroplasia (disease of the retina) in premature infants on oxygen therapy. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant in the human body.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Vitamin E has been said to protect the body from environmental hazards and serve as an anti-cancer agent. It aids in the treatment of cystic fibrosis and breast disease, and helps with leg muscle pains and wound healing. Vitamin E is also purported to help prevent heart disease, improve sexual function, aid in athletic performance, facilitate scar healing, and help to prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Recommended intake

Vitamin E is measured in both International Units (IU) and milligrams (mg), as indicated below. The DRI is the Dietary Reference Intake.

Group

DRI/IU (dL-alpha-tocopherol)

DRI/mg (alpha-tocopherol)

Infants (0 to 6 months)

4.5 IU

3 mg

Infants (6 months to 1 year)

6 IU

4 mg

Children (1 to 3 years)

9 IU

6 mg

Children (4 to 10 years)

10.5 IU

7 mg

Men (11+ years)

15 IU

10 mg

Women (11+ years)

12 IU

8 mg

Pregnant women

15 IU

10 mg

Breastfeeding women (1st 6 months)

18 IU

12 mg

Breastfeeding women (2nd 6 months)

16.5 IU

11 mg

Vitamin E is sold primarily as a soft capsule for oral use. The strengths available range from 100 to 1,000 IU. It is also available as a chewable tablet and an oral solution. The strength of the oral solution is 50 mg/ml. Vitamin E oil is also available.

Vitamin E capsules should be swallowed whole. They should not be chewed.

Food source

Nutrient content per 100 grams

Wheat germ

160 mg

Sunflower seeds

31 mg

Walnuts

22 mg

Corn oil

21 mg

Margarine

17.9 mg

Almonds

14.9 mg

Cabbage

7.0 mg

Peanuts

6.9 mg

Brazil nuts

6.5 mg

Cashew nuts

5.1 mg

Vitamin E is stable at room temperature and therefore does not need to be refrigerated. It is not destroyed by cooking. It remains active in foods that have been frozen.

Vitamin E is also stable in light and in the presence of acid and alkali. It occurs as a thick, yellowish oil.

An increased need for vitamin E may result from various malabsorption syndromes in which steatorrhea (excess fat in the stool) occurs. These syndromes include lactose intolerance, tropical and non-tropical sprue, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis, pancreatitis, and conditions that lead to a pancreatectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas).

Individuals need additional vitamin E if they are over 55, consume moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol, have chronic alcoholism, or have liver diseases such as cirrhosis.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need to take vitamin supplements, but must consult a physician before doing so.

Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency in newborns include hemolytic anemia, retinopathy (disease of the retina), and edema. Low vitamin E status in adults has been associated with increased risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cancer, and cataract formation.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Vitamin E is a relatively safe vitamin. Although vitamin E is fat soluble and can build up in the tissues of the body, hypervitaminosis is rare. Symptoms of too much vitamin E include fatigue, weakness, nausea, blurred vision, flatulence, and diarrhea.

There are no known contraindications to vitamin E.

Vitamin E can increase the effects of oral anticoagulants (blood-thinning medications) and result in increased clotting time and bleeding.

Large doses of vitamin E can decrease the body's vitamin A reserves.

Additional information

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