Many vitamins participate in the functioning of the body. Vitamin E is obviously one of them. Here is everything you need to know about it: benefits, indications, recommendations, etc.
What is Vitamin E
Also called “tocopherol”, vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble vitamin, which participates in the proper functioning of the human body. It is known to be an antioxidant, but it has many other roles and benefits that we will come back to in this article.
In fact, vitamin E is a family of eight molecules, the most active of which is alpha-tocopherol, hence its name. These eight molecules group together four forms of tocopherols and four forms of tocotrienols. Alpha-tocopherol is the main form of vitamin E found in our body.
What are our vitamin E needs?
Vitamin E requirements change with the age, gender, and condition of each person. The Dietary Reference Intakes allow us to better situate our needs, and to better respond to them. Here is a summary table of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E.
|Baby 0-6 months||4 mg (6 UI)|
|Baby from 7 to 12 months||5 mg (7.5 UI)|
|Young children from 1 to 3 years old||6 mg (9 UI)|
|Children from 4 to 8 years old||7 mg (10.5 UI)|
|Children from 9 to 13 years old||11 mg (16.5 UI)|
|Teenagers from 14 to 18 years old||15,5 mg (22.5 UI)|
|Adult males (19 to 75 years old)||15,5 mg (22.5 UI)|
|Adult females (19 to 75 years old)||15,5 mg (22.5 UI)|
|Adults over 75 years old||15 mg (22 UI)|
|Pregnant or breastfeeding women||19 mg (28.5 UI)|
Vitamin E Benefits
An antioxidant vitamin
Vitamin E plays an essential role in the preservation of the membranes of the cells that make up our body. It is said to be an “antioxidant” since it participates in the neutralization and elimination of free radicals present in excess in the body.
Free radicals have harmful effects on cells: they accelerate their aging. This can have serious consequences in the long term since free radicals participate in the development of certain diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancers, etc.).
Furthermore, vitamin E reduces or prevents the oxidation of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The oxidation of LDL cholesterol is linked to the onset of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.
Prevents cardiovascular disease
As we have just explained, vitamin E participates in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases caused by the excess of free radicals in the body. But it also has antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory and vasodilator properties, which are not directly linked to its antioxidant properties.
Indeed, vitamin E plays a major cardioprotective role, as shown by studies on supplementation with this vitamin.
Good for the skin
Good vitamin E intake helps maintain healthy and beautiful skin. Indeed, as a liposoluble vitamin, it participates in the constitution of cell membranes and allows the skin to be elastic.
In addition, as an antioxidant vitamin, it helps fight skin aging, preventing fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E is also known to reduce the formation of scars on the skin and promotes the healing of minor wounds as well as burns.
Strengthens the immune system
With age, the immune system tends to lose its effectiveness. Indeed, after the age of 70, aging significantly affects the immune system. The cells that compose it struggle to protect us from infections, ailments, and cancers.
This decline in immunity is largely linked to a deficiency in certain nutrients, of which vitamin E is a part. Studies show that a daily dose of vitamin E improves the immune response, especially in the elderly.
Protects against neurodegenerative diseases
Vitamin E plays a role in preventing cognitive decline and the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Indeed, studies have shown the preventive properties of this vitamin on Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
In addition, other studies have found a link between a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease and a diet rich in vitamin E. As it is present in the membranes of cells, vitamin E plays a role in cell health.
Alleviates menstrual problems
Vitamin E is a true ally of women. Daily intake of this vitamin shows marked improvements in the treatment of menstrual-related disorders. It helps reduce the intensity of menstrual pain as well as its duration in adolescent girls and alleviate symptoms common to all women with period pain.
The recommended daily dosages vary depending on the disorder encountered.
In any case, it is necessary to seek medical advice.
Good for vision
When taken with vitamin C and Carotenoids, vitamin E has a beneficial effect on the retina of the eyes. A combination of these three substances can prevent eye aging and vision reduction.
Furthermore, since vitamin E plays an important role in the metabolism of the body’s cells and fights free radicals in the process, one of the benefits of vitamin E is that it promotes eye health.
A sufficient intake of vitamin E can reduce eye deterioration and reduce the chance of getting different types of eye complications.
Natural sources of vitamin E
Vitamin E is mainly produced by plants, which is why they contain most of the vitamin E. The vegetable oils are in the first place here, olive and rapeseed oil are best suited to meet the demand. There are 45 to 80 milligrams of vitamin E in 100 grams. However, the leader among the oils is wheat germ oil, a little less than a tablespoon of the valuable oil is enough to cover the daily requirement.
A little flaxseed in quark or muesli not only promotes digestion but also significantly increases the vitamin E balance of a day. 16 milligrams are in 100 grams of flaxseed.
Fish is also a good source of vitamin E. A 150-gram serving of herring, salmon, catfish or mackerel, and trout each bring around 3 milligrams. Thus, fish not only contributes to a good supply of vitamin E but also provides many omega-3 fatty acids.
Sweet potatoes make it to around 4.5 milligrams of vitamin E per 100 grams. In addition, they also provide healthy beta-carotene.
A serving of hazelnuts of 40 grams contains 10.5 grams of the valuable vitamin Es and thus covers almost completely the entire daily requirement. They are also rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus as well as unsaturated fatty acids. Almonds, like hazelnuts, are excellent vitamin E suppliers.
Fruit and vegetables
Vegetables and fruits also provide plenty of vitamin E. Peppers contain around 3 milligrams per pod, similar to a mango. Blackcurrants provide around 2 milligrams per 100 grams, which is the same as an avocado.
|Food||Vitamin E content in mg per 100 g|
|Wheat germ oil||150 mg|
|Hazelnut oil||47 mg|
|Rapeseed oil||44 mg|
|Sunflower oil||41,4 mg|
|Almond oil||39,2 mg|
|Safflower oil||34,1 mg|
|Peanut butter||6,4 mg|
|Wheat germ||19 mg|
|Pine nuts||12,4 mg|
|Sweet potato||4,5 mg|
|fresh blueberries||1,8 mg|
|raw red peppers||1,6 mg|
|Salmon (smoked/fried)||13 mg|
|Herring fillet||1,6 mg|
|Chicken egg||1,8 mg|
|Mountain cheese||0,9 mg|
|Gouda cheese||0,76 mg|
Signs and symptoms of vitamin E deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency is seen mainly in people with conditions that lead to reduced fat absorption such as chronic pancreatitis; celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, etc.
Here are the main symptoms of vitamin E deficiency:
- Muscle weakness due to oxidative stress.
- Coordination and walking difficulties linked to the degeneration of certain neurons, thus blocking the emission of signals.
- A weakening of the light receptors of the retina which can lead to loss of vision.
- Some studies suggest that a lack of vitamin E can suppress immune cells.
Consequences of a vitamin E deficiency
Although vitamin E deficiency is very rare in the US, it can nonetheless have serious consequences when it occurs. This includes a weakening of the muscles, problems with the nerves, and anemia.
The chance of vitamin E deficiency is quite high if you follow an extremely fat-free diet. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and is common in oily and high-fat products. Of course, it is not impossible to eat fat-free and still get enough vitamin E, but you need to do a little more for it.
For example, you could opt for products that have a low-fat content and are still rich in vitamin E. Think of sunflower seeds, for example. These are a great source of vitamin E, and the fat content is relatively limited.
If you decide not to eat seeds or seeds, you can also get your recommended daily amount from dark green leafy vegetables. You would then have to eat almost 900 grams of green vegetables to get your daily amount of vitamin E. Vegetables are low in calories and very low in fat. This would therefore fit perfectly into a completely fat-free diet.
Of course, you can also make a combination of the two: a handful of sunflower seeds, combined with green leafy vegetables.
Causes of vitamin E deficiency
In healthy people in industrialized nations, vitamin E deficiency is very unlikely. If it nevertheless occurs, the following cases are usually the main culprit.
- Impaired fat intake: with disorders of fat metabolism, the body cannot absorb vitamin E through the small intestine
- extremely low-fat or one-sided diet
- increased oxidative stress due to smoking, increased alcohol consumption or competitive sports
- Liver diseases: liver metabolism cannot process vitamin E
When to take vitamin E
First, it is beneficial to increase the proportion of foods that contain it in a balanced diet. Indeed, it is rare to suffer from a deficiency of vitamin E when following a healthy and sufficiently varied diet.
If you have any condition that can affect nutrient absorption, talk to your doctor. Same advice if you think your diet is not enough to meet your needs for other vitamins and nutrients.
We never recommend self-medication: medical advice is always safer and more reliable. Your doctor will decide whether it is necessary to give you vitamin E supplementation.
Nate has worked as a nutritionist for over 14 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in dietetics from the University of Texas. His passions include working out, traveling and podcasting.