Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in many foods. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E is also used to help boost the body’s immune system so that it is able to fight off invading bacteria.
Antioxidant properties: The main role of vitamin E is as an antioxidant. It is incorporated into the lipid portion of cell membranes and carrier molecules and then helps to protect these structures from toxic compounds, heavy metals and free radicals. Since vitamin E has many antioxidant effects, a high diet of vitamin E appears to have protective against common health conditions like heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Immune system: Vitamin E is essential for the maintenance of a healthy immune system. It helps the immune system by protecting the thymus gland and circulating white blood cells from damage. This vitamin is particularly important in protecting the immune system from damage during times of oxidative stress and chronic illness.
Eyes and Aging: Along with Vitamin A, Vitamin E is vital for healthy eyes. It is essential for the development of the retina and protects the eyes against free radical damage associated with cataract formation and macular degeneration. Vitamin E helps to protect vitamin A from being damaged within the eyes. Along with protecting the eyes, vitamin E may protect against the effects of aging by destroying free radicals which cause degeneration in tissues like the skin and blood vessels. Vitamin E may also be helpful in protecting the mind from aging effects like memory loss.
- Up to 6 months: 4 milligrams (mg)
- 7 to 12 months: 5 mg
Children and Adolescents
- 1 to 3 years old: 6 mg
- 4 to 8 years old: 7 mg
- 9 to 13 years old: 11 mg
- 14 to 18 years old: 15 mg
- 19 years old and older: 15 mg
- Pregnant: 15 mg
- Lactating: 19 mg
Severe vitamin E deficiency is rare, those at risk include people with chronic liver disease and fat malabsorption syndromes such as, celiac disease and cystic fibrosis. Those who are on hemodialysis, have inherited red blood cell disorders, were premature or had a low birth weight and the elderly may also be at risk for vitamin E deficiencies and are therefore given supplementation.
Sources in the Diet
The best natural sources of vitamin E come from nut based sources and some fruits and vegetables. Some good examples are sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, corn and canola oils, avocado, cooked spinach, broccoli, grapes and peaches.
Recent Studies and Articles
Vitamin E and protecting against cancer
Vitamin E and caution to preterm and low-weight infants
Vitamin E in kiwifruit
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-  – Reavley N. The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements and Herbs. New York, NY: M. Evans and Company, Inc.; 1998.
-  – Nelms, M. Sucher, K. Lacey, K. Roth, S. Nutrition Therapy & Pathophysiology. 2 ed. New York, NY: Cengage Learning; 2011.
-  – Boyle, Marie A. and Anderson Sara L. Personal Nutrition. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning; 2007.
-  – Dole Nutrition Institute. The Dole Nutrition Handbook. Printed in the United States of America; Rodale Inc. 2010.
-  – Vitamin E. National Institute of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements website. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer/. Updated October 2011. Accessed June 2015.