Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin E is available in natural (eg d alpha tocopherol) and synthetic (eg dl alpha tocopheryl acetate) forms. Natural vitamin E is better absorbed than synthetic.
The amount of vitamin E in a product is presented in milligrams ‘mg’ or international units ‘IU’. Equivalent values between mg and IU vary between synthetic and natural forms of vitamin E.
Why you may need vitamin E
Anaemia – deficiency of vitamin E can affect red blood cells causing a condition called erythrocyte haemolysis, simply meaning fragile red blood cells that break easily leading to reduced life of these cells and anaemia.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – studies found a reduced risk of 27 per cent for visual acuity loss and 25 per cent for progression of AMD in patients supplemented with vitamin E.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – symptoms of anxiety, craving, and depression were reduced when patients were supplemented with vitamin E.
Infertility – men with low sperm count, motility and immature sperm received vitamin E and achieved 21 per cent success of impregnation compared to zero for similar patients receiving placebo.
Cardiovascular disease – vitamin E thins the blood (anticoagulant), thus improving blood flow. It also works as an anti-oxidant by reducing oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and helps reduce cholesterol plaque formation.
Varicose veins – vitamin E assists peripheral circulation.
Antioxidant – decreases cellular damage by free radicals. Damage is linked to conditions such as cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease.
Wound healing – applied topically, vitamin E assists wound healing to non broken skin.
How much do you need?
Adequate Intake levels are:
Adults (over 19 years): 7mg (women), 10mg (men) a-tocopherol equivalents daily
Pregnancy: 7mg a-tocopherol equivalents daily
Breastfeeding: 11mg a-tocopherol equivalents daily
Children 9-13 years: 8mg (girls), 9mg (boys) a-tocopherol equivalents daily
Children 14-18 years: 8mg (girls), 10mg (boys) a-tocopherol equivalents daily
Symptoms of deficiency
Symptoms include poor circulation, increased blood clotting, muscle wasting, poor coordination and reflexes.
The best sources include wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, sunflower oil, safflower oil, olive oil, nuts and egg yolk.
Other reasons why you may need more
Vitamin E is sensitive to heat and light. Choose cold pressed oils that are stored away from direct sunlight and heat.
You may need more if you have a fat malabsorption condition such as cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease or pancreatic disease. In addition people with an inherited isolated vitamin E deficiency (rare inborn error of vitamin E metabolism) exposure to pollution and smokers may require more vitamin E.
- If you suffer bleeding disorders or vitamin K deficiency, always consult your healthcare professional before supplementing with vitamin E.
- Stop supplementing with vitamin E at least 2 weeks prior to any surgery.
- Adverse effects – supplementing with very high doses may cause adverse symptoms including nausea, gas, diarrhoea, and heart palpitations.
- Hypertension – some individuals may show an increase in blood pressure if starting a dose of vitamin E that is too high. Instead you should start at a low dose and gradually increase the dose to the required level.