Vitamin E – Benefits, Sources, Deficiency Symptoms and Side Effects

vitamin e

Vitamin E is a blanket term for eight different naturally occurring nutrients—four different tocopherols and four different tocotrienols. Each of these vitamin types is considered a fat-soluble antioxidant, and all eight are found in varying degrees in our daily diet. You may sometimes hear all eight molecules being referred to collectively as “tocochromanols.”

The most famous of this vitamin group is alpha-tocopherol. Both with respect to diet and high-dose supplementation, it is among the most intensely studied of nutrients. This is because its ability to help prevent free radical damage is well documented Public health recommendations for vitamin E are typically measured in milligram equivalents of alpha-tocopherol equivalents, or mg ATE.


  • Balances Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance made by the liver and required by the body for the proper function of your cells, nerves, and hormones. When cholesterol levels are in their natural state, they are balanced, normal and healthy. When it oxidizes, it becomes dangerous. Studies have shown that Vitamin E serves as a protective antioxidant that fights cholesterol oxidation. This is because vitamin E can fight free radical damage in the body, which leads to cholesterol oxidation.

  • Fights Free Radicals and Prevents Disease Development

Free radicals fight and break down the healthy cells in your body and this can lead to heart disease and cancer. These molecules form naturally in your body and they can cause severe damage when they accelerate or oxidize. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that has the power to reduce free radical damage, fight inflammation, and therefore to help to naturally slow aging in your cells and fight off health issues like heart disease. Studies have shown that Vitamin E can significantly increase immunity, therefore helping to prevent both common illnesses and serious conditions from forming.

  • Repairs Damaged Skin

Vitamin E helps to strengthen the capillary walls in your skin and to improve moisture and elasticity, acting as a natural anti aging nutrient within your body. Studies have shown that Vitamin E  helps to reduce inflammation both within your body and on your skin, helping to maintain healthy, youthful skin. These antioxidant properties are also helpful when you are exposed to cigarette smoke or ultraviolet rays from sunlight, protecting against skin cancer.Taking vitamin E with vitamin C fights skin inflammation after exposure to UV radiation and can also be useful in decreasing signs of acne and eczema. Vitamin E also helps the healing process in the skin. It is absorbed by the epidermis layer of the skin and can be used to treat sunburn, which is one of the leading causes of skin cancer among other factors. Because it speeds up cell regeneration, it can be used to treat scars, acne, and wrinkles; this makes your skin look healthier and younger.

  • Thickens Hair

Because Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, it helps to decrease environmental damage to your hair. It can also promote circulation to the scalp. Vitamin E oil can retain the natural moisture in your skin, which will help your scalp from becoming dry and flakey. This oil will also make your hair look healthier and fresher. You can apply a few drops of vitamin E oil on your hair, especially if it is looking dry and dull.

  • Balances Hormones

Vitamin E can help to play a crucial role in balancing your endocrine and nervous system, naturally working to help keep your hormones balanced. Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance may include PMS, weight gain, allergies, urinary tract infections, changes in the skin, anxiety, and fatigue. By keeping your hormones in balance, you will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight, you will keep a regular menstrual cycle, and you will find yourself feeling more energetic.

  • Helps PMS Symptoms

Taking a vitamin E supplement 2-3 days before and 2-3 days after a menstrual period can reduce the cramping, anxiety, and cravings that are related to PMS. Vitamin E can decrease pain severity and duration, and it can reduce menstrual blood loss. It does this by balancing your hormones naturally and it helps to keep your menstrual cycle regulated. 

  • Improves Vision

Vitamin E may help decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is a common cause of blindness. Keep in mind, in order for vitamin E to be effective for vision, it must also be consumed with adequate intakes of vitamin C, beta carotene, and zinc. It has also been found that taking high doses of vitamin E and vitamin A daily seems to improve healing and vision in people undergoing laser eye surgery.

  • Helps People with Alzheimer’s Disease

Vitamin E may slow down the worsening of memory loss and functional decline in people with moderately severe Alzheimer’s disease. It may also delay the loss of independence and the need for a caregiver or assistance. Vitamin E, taken with Vitamin C, can also decrease the risk of developing several forms of dementia. 

  • Improves Effects of Medical Treatments

Vitamin E is sometimes used to lessen the harmful effects of medical treatments such as radiation and dialysis. This is because it is a powerful antioxidant that fights off free radicals in the body. It is also used to reduce unwanted side effects of drugs that may cause hair loss of lung damage.

  • Improves Physical Endurance and Muscle Strength

Vitamin E can be used to improve your physical endurance. It can increase your energy and reduce the level of oxidative stress on your muscles after you exercise. Vitamin E can also improve your muscle strength. Vitamin E eliminates fatigue by promoting blood circulation; it can also strengthen your capillary walls and nourish your cells.


Deficiency Symptoms

Vitamin E deficiencies are rare and it is almost never caused by a poor diet. There are specific situations that may lead to a vitamin E deficiency.  A premature infant who is born weighing less than 3.5 pounds is in danger of a vitamin E deficiency. but a pediatrician who specializes in the care of newborns will typically evaluate the nutritional needs of an infant. People with fat absorption problems, which is a common problem for those who struggle with inflammatory bowel disease, may struggle with a deficiency.

People who have an issue with their dietary fat levels are also at risk because this is needed for the absorption of this vitamin. This includes anyone who has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, has had a gastric bypass, or people with malabsorption problems such as Crohn’s disease, liver disease, or pancreatic insufficiency.  Deficiency symptoms include loss of muscle coordination, and impaired vision and speech.



Vitamin E is found in a wide variety of foods. The richest sources are plant oils, such as soya, corn and olive oil.

Other good sources include:

  • nuts and seeds
  • wheat germ – found in cereals and cereal products


World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of vitamin E

Food Serving
Cals Amount
(mg (ATE))
Sunflower Seeds 0.25 cup 204.4 12.31 82 7.2
Spinach 1 cup 41.4 3.74 25 10.8
Swiss Chard 1 cup 35.0 3.31 22 11.3
Turnip Greens 1 cup 28.8 2.71 18 11.3
Asparagus 1 cup 39.6 2.70 18 8.2
Beet Greens 1 cup 38.9 2.61 17 8.1
Mustard Greens 1 cup 36.4 2.49 17 8.2
Chili Peppers 2 tsp 15.2 2.06 14 16.2
Almonds 0.25 cup 132.2 6.03 40 5.5
Broccoli 1 cup 54.6 2.26 15 5.0
Bell Peppers 1 cup 28.5 1.45 10 6.1
Kale 1 cup 36.4 1.11 7 3.7
Tomatoes 1 cup 32.4 0.97 6 3.6
Avocado 1 cup 240.0 3.11 21 1.6
Peanuts 0.25 cup 206.9 3.04 20 1.8
Shrimp 4 oz 134.9 2.49 17 2.2
Olives 1 cup 154.6 2.22 15 1.7
Olive Oil 1 TBS 119.3 1.94 13 2.0
Collard Greens 1 cup 62.7 1.67 11 3.2
Cranberries 1 cup 46.0 1.20 8 3.1
Raspberries 1 cup 64.0 1.07 7 2.0
Kiwifruit 1 2 inches 42.1 1.01 7 2.9
Carrots 1 cup 50.0 0.81 5 1.9
Green Beans 1 cup 43.8 0.56 4 1.5
Leeks 1 cup 32.2 0.52 3 1.9


How much vitamin E do I need?

The amount of vitamin E you need is:

  • 4mg a day for men
  • 3mg a day for women

You should be able to get all the vitamin E you need from your daily diet.

Any vitamin E your body doesn’t need immediately is stored for future use, so you don’t need it in your diet every day.


Side Effects

Vitamin E benefits most healthy people when taken by mouth or applied to the skin. Most people will not experience any side effects when taking the recommended dose. This vitamin may be unsafe when taken in high doses, especially for people who have conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. If you suffer from these health issues, do not take doses of 400 IU/day or more.

Some studies show that taking high doses of vitamin E, which is between 300-800 IU each day, might increase the chance of having a serious stroke called hemorrhagic stroke by 22%. One serious side effect of too much vitamin E is an increased risk of bleeding, especially in the brain.

Avoid taking supplements containing vitamin E or any other antioxidant vitamins immediately before and following angioplasty, a heart procedure. These vitamins seem to interfere with proper healing, so speak to your health care professional if you are undergoing this kind of procedure.

Supplementing with very levels of Vitamin E could potentially lead to the following health concerns:

  • heart failure in people with diabetes
  • worsening bleeding disorders
  • increasing the chances that head, neck, and prostate cancer will return
  • increasing bleeding during and after surgery
  • increasing chance of death after a heart attack or stroke

One study found that vitamin E supplements can be harmful to women who are in the early stages of pregnancy. Women that took vitamin E supplements during their first 8 weeks of pregnancy showed an increase of congenital heart defects.

High doses of this vitamin can also lead to nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fatigue, weakness, headache, blurred vision, rash, bruising, and bleeding. Topical vitamin E can irritate some people’s skin, so try a small amount first and make sure you don’t have a sensitivity.



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