The Benefits of Vitamin E

Found naturally in some foods, vitamin E is known to play a key role in immune function and in certain metabolic processes. Since vitamin E is an antioxidant, it’s also thought to fight oxidative stress due to free radicals.

As an antioxidant, vitamin E supplements are often touted as a natural means of treating or preventing various diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as heart disease, age-related vision loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.

Vitamin E is also applied topically on the face and body and is an ingredient in skin care products.

Although vitamin E is found naturally in a number of foods, some people take the supplement in an effort to boost their levels of this essential nutrient. Individuals with illnesses like liver disease or Crohn’s disease may need extra vitamin E, however most people can achieve adequate intake through diet alone.

Benefits

Longer cell life

You’ve probably seen rust on your bike or car. A similar process of oxidation and accelerated aging takes place in your body when cells are exposed to molecules called free radicals. Free radicals weaken and break down healthy cells. These molecules may also contribute to heart disease and cancer.

Free radicals form as a result of normal body processes. They cause damage that shortens the life of your cells. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage and slow the aging process of your cells.

Antioxidant

Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It may help protect your cells from damage. This essential nutrient occurs naturally in many foods. It’s also available as a dietary supplement. Sometimes, it’s in processed foods. Vitamin E is fat-soluble. This means your body stores and uses it as needed.

The term “vitamin E” describes eight different compounds. Alpha-tocopherol is the most active one in humans.

Researchers have investigated the use of vitamin E as treatment for a variety of degenerative diseases, including:

  • hardening of the arteries
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • cancer
Extra protection

Vitamin E may help people with higher environmental or lifestyle risk factors. Free radicals are increased by:

  • cigarette smoking
  • exposure to air pollution
  • high exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight

Vitamin E may help repair damaged cells.

It’s difficult to consume too much vitamin E in your regular diet. It’s neither risky nor harmful to obtain vitamin E from food sources.

Forms

Vitamin E comes in capsule (often called softgels), tablet, or liquid form. Some oils are intended for topical use only, so it’s important to read the labels carefully.

Two types of vitamin E supplements are d-alpha-tocopherol (the natural form) and dl-alpha-tocopherol (the synthetic form). People need more IU of synthetic alpha tocopherol from dietary supplements and fortified foods to obtain the same amount of the nutrient as from the natural form.

Dietary supplements

Supplements containing vitamin E typically provide only alpha-tocopherol, although “mixed” products containing other tocopherols and even tocotrienols are available. Naturally occurring alpha-tocopherol exists in one stereoisomeric form/

Most vitamin-E-only supplements provide ≥100 IU of the nutrient. These amounts are substantially higher than the RDAs. The 1999–2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 11.3% of adults took vitamin E supplements containing at least 400 IU.

Alpha-tocopherol in dietary supplements and fortified foods is often esterified to prolong its shelf life while protecting its antioxidant properties. The body hydrolyzes and absorbs these esters (alpha-tocopheryl acetate and succinate) as efficiently as alpha-tocopherol

Side Effects

High doses of vitamin E in supplement form may increase the risk of serious side effects, such as an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

In some cases, taking vitamin E supplements in high doses may cause adverse effects (including nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea). What’s more, some research suggests that vitamin E supplements may lead to increased risk of heart failure and increased mortality.

Vitamin E can thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding. It may interact with blood-thinning medications and supplements, such as warfarin, garlic, and gingko. It shouldn’t be used within two weeks of surgery.

If you are undergoing cancer chemotherapy or radiotherapy, consult your oncologist before taking vitamin E.

Dosages shouldn’t exceed 1,000 international units (IUs) per day if you’re using synthetic supplements. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for ages 14 and up is 15 milligrams (mg)

Research hasn’t found any adverse effects of vitamin E from food.