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Home :: Vitamin E

Vitamin E - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources

Alternative names :- Anti-aging vitamin and Anti-oxidant vitamin

Evans and Bishop in 1922 found that female rats required a factor for normal pregnancy; this was called the antisterility vitamin. However, the role of vitamin E in human nutrition remained in doubt. It is only during the last few years that the role of this vitamin has been recognized in the survival of red blood cells in premature infants.

Vitamin E (otherwise known as 'tocopherol' meaning 'substance that brings forth childbirth' in Greek ) is a fat-soluble vitamin which was identified when it was discovered that vegetable oils could help prevent birth abnormalities. Vitamin E is commonly used in many foodstuffs to help preserve them from oxidization. It comprises of two types of compounds: tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and tocotrienols. The most widely available form of vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol.

Benefits and functions of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, protects your cells from oxidation, and neutralizes unstable free radicals, which can cause damage. This is done by the vitamin E giving up one of its electrons to the electron deficient free radical, making it more stable. While Vitamin E performs its antioxidant functions, it also protects the other antioxidants from being oxidized. Vitamin E also plays some role in the body's ability to process glucose. Some, but not all, trials suggest that vitamin E supplementation may eventually prove to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Specifically, vitamin E may help to:

  • Prevent or delay heart disease and related complications.
  • Protect against prostate and other cancers.
  • Anti-blood clotting agent.
  • Prevent or delay cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
  • Promote healing of burns, eczema, and other skin problems.
  • Retard the aging process and boost immune function.

Recommended dosage of Vitamin E

The Recommended Dosage for vitamin E are :-

  • Adults - 200 IU (5 mcg ).
  • Pregnant women - 400 IU (10 mcg ).

Deficiency symptoms of Vitamin E

Vitamin E deficiency occurs due to: (i) insufficient bile secretion (cholestatic liver disease); (ii) insufficient pancreatic enzymes secretion (cystic fibrosis); (iii) inability to form chylomicrons (abetalipoproteinemia); (iv) large resection of small intestine (short bowel syndrome); or (v) other small intestinal disorders such as radiation enteritis and blind loop syndrome.! The degree of vitamin E malabsorption correlates with total fat malabsorption. It takes a long time for vitamin E stores to be depleted; in adults, malabsorption must persist for 5-10 years for the manifestation of neurological deficit.

Childhood cholestatic liver disease leads to malabsorption and deficiency of vitamin E; this depletes tocopherol in nervous tissue. When Vitamin E is in short supply symptoms may include acne, anemia, muscle disease, dementia, cancers, gallstones, shortened red blood cell life span, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), and uterine degeneration.

Food sources of Vitamin E

The major sources are egg Yolks, leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, wheat germ oil, whole grains.


Vitamin E is well tolerated. Large doses may cause muscle, weakness, nausea and fatigue, and may decrease serum thyroid hormones and elevate serum triglycerides in females. Such doses may cause thrombophlebitis. They also decrease vitamin K activity and inhibit prothrombin formation.

Patients treated with oral anticoagulants should not take vitamin E because it enhances the effect of warfarin. In humans, administration of even 3200 mg per day had no significant side effect. High doses of 800 mg a day for one month did not give rise to any adverse effect in one report.

However, there is no advantage in administering these antioxidant vitamins in doses higher than the recommended dietary allowance.

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