Vitamin E - Learn About Vitamins & Minerals
E is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it is dissolved
in fat. Vitamin E attaches to fat. This is how it is carried through
the body. This is one reason why moderate amounts of fat are needed
in the diet. The body can store fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin E
has strong antioxidant properties. The vitamin may protect against
heart disease and cancer. Its protective role has been widely studied.
Vitamin E is part of a group of substances called tocopherols. Each
group has different potencies.
What food source is the nutrient found in?
Vitamin E is found in the fatty parts of foods. The best sources
of vitamin E are unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils. These
- sunflower, safflower, canola, olive, and wheat germ oils.
- avocados, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, and whole grain, or unrefined,
- Green leafy vegetables have smaller amounts.
- Soybean oil has a form of vitamin E that has little influence
on health. This oil is not a good source of vitamin E. Soybean
oil is the most common oil used in products like salad dressing
Heating oils to high temperatures, such as in frying, can destroy
vitamin E. Storage and freezing foods for a long time can also destroy
Vitamin E is found in the germ of a seed or grain. Most of the
nutrients are concentrated there. Whole-wheat flour contains much
of the original germ, so it has vitamin E. Refined flour, or white
flour, has been stripped of many of its nutrients, including vitamin
How does the nutrient affect the body?
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells
from oxidation. Oxidation can lead to cell damage. Cell damage can
lead to chronic health problems, such as heart disease and cancer.
Vitamin E works closely with other antioxidants, like vitamin C
and selenium, to help protect the body. Vitamin E improves the way
the body uses vitamin A. It may help protect against ion the toxic
effects of some metals, such as lead.
The recommended dietary allowances, or RDAs, for vitamin E were
recently changed. They were increased to provide maximum health
benefits. Levels were raised from 10 milligrams (mg) daily to 15
mg daily for adult men and women. Pregnancy increases the recommendations
slightly. It is difficult to get enough vitamin E from food alone.
To get the full benefit of vitamin E, a supplement is recommended.
The government estimates that 68 percent of men and 71 percent of
women do not get enough vitamin E daily.
An upper level, based only on intake from vitamin supplements has
been set at 1,000 mg of alpha-tocopherol. This is the most potent
form of vitamin E. The upper level is not the recommended amount
to take. The upper level is the maximum intake of a vitamin or mineral
that is likely to cause no health risks. People should not routinely
go above the set upper levels for vitamins and minerals. Taking
too much vitamin E puts people at risk for prolonged bleeding time.
This is because large doses can interfere with vitamin K. Vitamin
K helps the blood to clot when a person is bleeding. Not enough
is known about vitamin E to make positive claims on mega doses,
or extremely high doses of the vitamin. The question is if mega
doses of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, can decrease the risk
for chronic diseases. More research is needed.
Severe vitamin E deficiency is rare. Conditions where it may occur
include people who don't absorb fat normally, premature infants,
people with red blood cell disorders, and people on kidney dialysis.
Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include nerve damage and anemia
To maximize vitamin E intake, healthy vegetable oils, nuts, seeds,
and unrefined whole-grain products should be a regular part of the
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