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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diet and Nutrition > Vitamin E
      Category : Health Centers > Food, Nutrition, and Metabolism

Vitamin E

Alternate Names : Tocopherol, Alpha-Tocopherol, Tocotrienol

Overview & Description | Functions and Sources

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it is dissolved in fat. Vitamin E attaches to fat. This is how it is carried through the body. This is one reason why moderate amounts of fat are needed in the diet. The body can store fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin E has strong antioxidant properties. The vitamin may protect against heart disease and cancer. Its protective role has been widely studied. Vitamin E is part of a group of substances called tocopherols. Each group has different potencies.


The recommended dietary allowances, or RDAs, for vitamin E were recently changed. They were increased to provide maximum health benefits. Levels were raised from 10 milligrams (mg) daily to 15 mg daily for adult men and women. Pregnancy increases the recommendations slightly. It is difficult to get enough vitamin E from food alone. To get the full benefit of vitamin E, a supplement is recommended. The government estimates that 68 percent of men and 71 percent of women do not get enough vitamin E daily.

An upper level, based only on intake from vitamin supplements has been set at 1,000 mg of alpha-tocopherol. This is the most potent form of vitamin E. The upper level is not the recommended amount to take. The upper level is the maximum intake of a vitamin or mineral that is likely to cause no health risks. People should not routinely go above the set upper levels for vitamins and minerals. Taking too much vitamin E puts people at risk for prolonged bleeding time. This is because large doses can interfere with vitamin K. Vitamin K helps the blood to clot when a person is bleeding. Not enough is known about vitamin E to make positive claims on mega doses, or extremely high doses of the vitamin. The question is if mega doses of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, can decrease the risk for chronic diseases. More research is needed.

Severe vitamin E deficiency is rare. Conditions where it may occur include people who don't absorb fat normally, premature infants, people with red blood cell disorders, and people on kidney dialysis. Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include nerve damage and anemia in infants.

To maximize vitamin E intake, healthy vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and unrefined whole-grain products should be a regular part of the diet.


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Vitamin E: Functions and Sources

Author: Kimberly Tessmer, RD, LD
Reviewer: Jane Hemminger, RD, LD
Date Reviewed: 05/01/01

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