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Alternative Names Return to topDeficiency - vitamin E; Tocopherol
Definition Return to top
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant.
Function Return to top
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects body tissue from damage caused by unstable substances called free radicals. Free radicals can harm cells, tissues, and organs. They are believed to play a role in certain conditions associated with aging.
Vitamin E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body to use vitamin K.
The ability of vitamin E to prevent cancer, heart disease, dementia, liver disease, and stroke are still not known. At lower levels, vitamin E may help protect the heart.
The best way to get enough essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods.
Food Sources Return to top
Vitamin E is found in the following foods:
Products made from these foods, such as margarine, also contain vitamin E.
Side Effects Return to top
In November, 2004, the American Heart Association stated that high amounts of vitamin E can be harmful. Taking 400 IU per day, or higher, may increase the risk of death.
Taking smaller amounts, such as those found in a typical multivitamin, was not harmful.
Recommendations Return to top
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine report the following dietary reference intakes for vitamin E:
Adolescents and Adults
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide pyramid.
Specific recommendations depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk (lactating) need higher amounts. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.
References Return to top
Hamrick I, Counts SH. Vitamin and mineral supplements. Wellness and Prevention. December 2008:35(4);729-747.
Ausiello D, ed. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.Update Date: 3/7/2009 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.