What Is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that protects cell membranes from oxidation and destruction. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant in the body where it helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are compounds formed when the body converts foods we eat into energy. Free radicals are also present in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. Vitamin E can be found in many foods as well as nutritional supplements.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Vitamin E?
In addition to acting as an antioxidant and destroying free radicals, vitamin E:
- Boosts the immune system
- Acts as a natural blood thinner by helping widen blood vessels, which prevents blood from clotting within them
- Helps with formation of red blood cells
- Cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and to carry out important functions such as cell differentiation, turning generic cells into specific types of cells the body needs, cell division, cell communication
Vitamin E may also be helpful in treating certain medical conditions such as:
Are There Risks of Taking Vitamin E?
Vitamin E from food sources does not pose a health risk, however, high doses of vitamin E from supplements may reduce the blood’s ability to form clots after injury which increases the risk of bleeding overall and of serious bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).
Vitamin E supplements can also interact with certain medications, such as:
What Is the Recommended Daily Amount of Vitamin E?
The doses in most vitamin E-only supplements are much higher than the recommended daily amounts, and high doses can increase the risk of bleeding and stroke.
Vitamin E from natural sources is listed as “d-alpha-tocopherol” on food packaging and supplement labels. Synthetic (man-made) vitamin E is listed as “dl-alpha-tocopherol.”
The natural form is more potent: 1 mg natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) is equal to 2 mg synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol).
The recommended daily amounts of vitamin E are:
- Breastfeeding females: 19 mg
- Adults, pregnant females, and teens 14-18 years: 15 mg
- Children 9–13 years: 11 mg
- Children 4–8 years: 7 mg
- Children 1–3 years: 6 mg
- Infants 7–12 months: 5 mg
- Birth to 6 months: 4 mg
Some food and dietary supplement labels list vitamin E in International Units (IUs) instead of mg. 1 IU of natural vitamin E is equivalent to 0.67 mg. 1 IU of synthetic vitamin E is equivalent to 0.45 mg.
What Foods Are Good Sources of Vitamin E?
The best place to get vitamin E is from a healthy diet. Vitamin E is found in a number of foods, such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Green vegetables
- Vegetable oils
- Wheat germ
- Foods fortified with vitamin E
- Breakfast cereals
- Fruit juices
- Margarines and spreads