Vitamin E: A Complete Guide to Benefits, Risks, Amount, and More

Medically Reviewed By Sade Meeks, MS, RD
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Vitamin E is an important nutrient that the body stores in the liver and fat cells. It helps form new red blood cells and may play a role in counteracting conditions related to aging. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that acts as an antioxidant in the human body. It helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals in the environment, including air pollution, cigarette smoke, and UV light from the sun.

A group of eight fat-soluble compounds form vitamin E. Of these eight, alpha-tocopherol is the only one that meets human requirements.

You can find vitamin E in seeds, vegetables, and specific fortified products. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement.

Read on to learn more about the benefits, risks, and ideal amounts of vitamin E.

there are slices of broccoli on a purple tray
James Ross/Stocksy United

What are the benefits of vitamin E?

Vitamin E helps boost the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. Also, the body uses vitamin E to help cells interact and complete vital functions.

Because vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, scientists are studying its health effects on:

  • Skin health: Vitamin E has been a prominent component of dermatology treatments for the past 50 years, mainly because it acts against free radicals and protects the skin from solar radiation. The cosmetic industry has also used vitamin E as an essential ingredient.
  • Heart disease: Ongoing studies have associated a lower risk of heart disease with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties found in vitamin E.
  • Prostate cancer: Vitamin E supplements can be used preventively for people who are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Eye disorders: The antioxidant properties in vitamin E can prevent eye disorders.
  • Brain function: The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, and vitamin E may protect cells from ongoing damage associated with neurodegeneration.

Learn more about vitamins for skin health here.

How can I get more vitamin E?

To get the recommended amount of vitamin E, eat a variety of foods, including:

  • vegetable oils, including safflower, corn, and soybean oils
  • nuts and seeds, including almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli
  • fortified breakfast cereals, margarine, and spreads
  • red peppers, salmon, and avocado

Supplements

You can also add a vitamin E supplement to your diet, but consider the following:

  • Each of the eight related compounds of vitamin E have a different level of activity in the body. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new vitamin supplement.
  • Vitamin E supplements may have a larger dose than recommended. Ask your doctor what dose will be best for you.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin E for adolescents and adults ages 18 and older is 15 milligrams (mg) per day. The dose increases to 19 mg per day for breastfeeding people.

The amount is less for children. Always confirm the correct amount with a doctor.

People with regular access to nutrient-dense foods and who consume a balanced diet should be meeting the RDA from their daily nutritional choices.

Learn more about natural food sources of vitamins here.

What are the risks and side effects of vitamin E?

A well-balanced diet that includes vitamin E is beneficial. However, exceeding the RDA of alpha-tocopherol through supplementation might cause:

You may also experience abnormal bleeding, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Overall, it is not recommended to surpass the RDA of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.

What does it mean to be deficient in vitamin E?

A vitamin E deficiency can be associated with genetics in rare cases.

Since our bodies need fat to properly absorb vitamin E, a deficiency might be related to diseases such as:

Signs of a vitamin E deficiency may include:

Most people do not identify a vitamin E deficiency on their own. Talk with your doctor about any of these symptoms and the appropriate vitamin E intake for your age.

Learn about common vitamin deficiencies in children here.

Can vitamin E interact with my medications?

When taking vitamin E supplements, you should be aware that they may interact with certain medications. These medications can include:

  • anticoagulants, as they may increase the risk of bleeding
  • prescriptions for cholesterol control
  • radiation or chemotherapy treatments

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking dietary supplements, as these may interfere with how your body absorbs and distributes other essential nutrients.

Summary

Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. It helps protect the body from free radical damage that can harm cells, and it promotes immune system functionality.

The cosmetic industry has relied on vitamin E to develop treatments backed by dermatology.

A well-balanced diet that includes leafy greens, seeds, and fresh fruits can provide the RDA of vitamin E.

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Medical Reviewer: Sade Meeks, MS, RD
Last Review Date: 2022 May 12
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  2. Kemnic, T. R., et al. (2021). Vitamin E deficiency. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519051/
  3. La Fata, G., et al. (2014). Effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance during ageing and in Alzheimer's disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4276978/
  4. Niki, E. (2015). Evidence for beneficial effects of vitamin E. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4578028/
  5. Vitamin E: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2021). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
  6. Ziegler, M., et al. (2020). Cardiovascular and metabolic protection by vitamin E: A matter of treatment strategy? [Abstract]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33003543/