Vitamin E

Alternative names
Deficiency - vitamin E; Tocopherol

Definition
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant.

Function

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, and they are believed to be one of the causes of the degenerative processes seen in aging.

Vitamin E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and it helps the body to use vitamin K.

Food Sources

Vitamin E is found in the following foods:

     
  • Wheat germ  
  • Corn  
  • Nuts  
  • Seeds  
  • Olives  
  • Spinach and other green leafy vegetables  
  • Asparagus  
  • Vegetable oils       o Corn oil       o Sunflower oil       o Soybean oil       o Cottonseed oil

Products made from these foods, such as margarine, also contain vitamin E.

Side Effects
There is no known dietary deficiency of vitamin E.

There are no known toxic effects to megadoses of vitamin E. Occasional side effects such as headache have been reported.

Recommendations

The benefit of vitamin E supplementation in cancer, heart disease, dementia, liver disease, and stroke are still not known. It is likely that a protective effect will be found for coronary artery disease.

Recommended daily allowances (RDAs) are defined as the levels of intake of essential nutrients that, on the basis of scientific knowledge, the Food and Nutrition Board judges to be adequate to meet the known nutrient needs of practically all healthy persons.

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 for each vitamin depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a PDF file that lists these recommendations.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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