Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found in various foods. While the vitamin E complex can take many forms, the human body is only able to use it in the form of alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E has many roles within the body: it helps cells interact with one another, is an antioxidant, and supports the immune system.
Vitamin E as an Antioxidant
The main purpose of antioxidants is to get rid of the free radicals that roam within our bodies wreaking havoc. Free radicals are stray electrons formed during everyday processes within our bodies, but they are also present in the environment in pollutants, cigarette smoke, ultraviolet sunlight, and other stressors.
Vitamin E garnered the attention of health experts in the 1980s when researchers found a link between free radicals and a variety of chronic health issues affecting vision, heart function, and cell division. Vitamin E helps neutralize free radicals tremendously. However, the benefits of vitamin E may differ based on the amount consumed, its interaction with other chemical compounds, and underlying health issues of the individual.
Vitamin E and Immune Health
Like other antioxidants, vitamin E boosts the immune system, helping it defend against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. It also helps expand blood vessels, reducing the risk of blood clots in the arteries of the heart.
Food Sources for More Vitamin E
Vitamin E occurs naturally in various fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. In addition, food manufacturers often add vitamin E to cereals and other processed foods. Dietary sources of vitamin E include:
- Plant-based oils such as sunflower, safflower, wheat germ, and soybean varieties
- Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts, and nut butters
- Sunflower seeds
- Vegetables such as spinach, beet greens, collard greens, broccoli, asparagus, and red bell peppers
- Fruits such as mangoes and avocados
- Fortified cereals, fruit juices, preserves, and spreads
Vitamin E is available in supplement form as part of a multivitamin or as standalone capsules. Vitamin E pills usually contain five to 50 times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the nutrient, which may cause adverse reactions in some people. Talk to your doctor before taking large doses of vitamin E.
Recommended Daily Amounts of Vitamin E
You might be wondering, “How much vitamin E should I be getting on a daily basis?”
Here are a couple vitamin E RDAs:
- RDA of vitamin E for people 14 years and older is 15 mg daily.
- For lactating women, the RDA is 19 mg daily.
Vitamin E Risks and Toxicity
Researchers have yet to identify the adverse effects of ingesting vitamin E from food. However, supplements present a different story: taking high amounts of vitamin E in supplement form can increase the risk of bleeding, including hemorrhaging.
Vitamin E supplements may also produce undesired results when taken with certain medications. It can increase bleeding risk in people taking anticoagulants.
Antioxidant supplements, including vitamin E, may also hinder the efficacy of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Due to these risks, the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily limit of 1000 mg of tocopherol supplementation for adults 19 years and older.
Eating a balanced diet is the best way to go. If you feel you aren’t getting enough vitamin E from your diet alone, ask your doctor for recommendations. He or she can help you understand the potential risks and benefits of taking vitamin E.