Healthy Vitamin Choice logo and Home link

Home / Vitamins And Deficiencies / Vitamin E

Vitamin E - Alpha Tocopherol

Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin with a wide range of therapeutic uses. Although this vitamin is fat soluble it is stored less effectively in the body than most and is very easily destroyed by processing. For example 90% is lost when wheat is refined into white flour.

Smokers and women who take the contraceptive pill have additional vitamin E requirements.

The functions of vitamin E

Vitamin E is necessary for:

The symptoms and signs of a vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin E deficiencies may cause:

Special benefits of vitamin E

Vitamin E may help in the following ways.

It may prevent or delay heart disease and related complications. Vitamin E's ability to protect against cardiovascular disease has been intensively studied and was initially thought to be very promising. The vitamin appears to prevent the oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, the first step in the development of atherosclerosis, a build up of plaque in the arteries that inhibits normal circulation.

Vitamin E is also believed to help prevent the formation of blood clots and to minimize the inflammatory process involved in heart disease development. Still a matter of debate, however, is whether an antioxidant such as vitamin E (including both tocopherols and tocotrienols) can prevent strokes, which aren't directly related to atherosclerosis.

It has a role in protecting against prostate and other cancers. As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps to safeguard cell membranes from the damaging effects of free radicals that can play a role in the development of cancer. The vitamin may also help fight cancer by boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of colon cancer, particularly in women under age 65.

Additionally, it:

When applied to the skin, vitamin E-containing creams or oils are believed to promote healing, protecting cells from free-radical damage and reducing itchiness. Many people use such products to ensure optimal skin health.

Food sources of vitamin E

Foods that contain vitamin E include: cereal brans (barley, oats, rice), soybeans, leafy green vegetables, almonds, butter, peanuts, sunflower oil, seeds and palm oil.

How much do you need?

The current Recommended Intake (or RDA) for vitamin E is 15 mg, equal to about 23 IU daily.

In addition to the vitamin E dosages for tocopherols indicated below, take 100 mg tocotrienols daily.

Special notes

Vitamin E appears to be safe when consumed in amounts up to 1,000 IU a day, although diarrhea and headaches havebeen reported in some people. Doses of over 800 IU a day of vitamin E may interfere with the body's ability to clot blood, posing a risk to people taking blood thinners (anticoagulants). In addition, high doses of vitamin E may inhibit the absorption of vitamin A.

Chlorinated drinking water increases vitamin E requirements.

Women of menopausal age as well as pregnant, breast feeding and women taking the contraceptive pill will also require increases in vitamin E.

Products with 25mcg of selenium for each 200 IU of vitamin E will encourage the efficiency of the vitamin E.

Vitamin E is particularly effective when taken with vitamin C, which increases its absorption by the body.

For topical use, commercial creams containing vitamin E are easy to find.

Guidelines For Use

General Interaction

Vitamin E's mild blood-thinning effect could cause problems if it is routinely taken with anticoagulant (blood-thinning) drugs such as warfarin or blood-thinning dietary supplements such as ginkgo. Aspirin could alsopresent problems in this regard. Consult your doctor before taking such a combination.


Because of vitamin E's effect on blood clotting, don't take supplements for two days before or after any type of surgery (including dental surgery). The minimum amount of vitamin E it takes to alter blood clotting is about 30 IU a day.

A number of chemotherapy and radiation treatments are designed to actually create free radicals for the purpose of killing cancer cells. If you are undergoing cancer treatment, don't take antioxidants such as vitamin E supplements without consulting your oncologist first. Otherwise, you may be working counter to what the cancer treatment is designed to do.

Consult your doctor before taking vitamin E if you have high blood pressure that is poorly controlled; the increased risk for bleeding with vitamin E could possibly lead to a greater risk for the complications of high blood pressure,such as hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain).

Back to Top


Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

Back to Top

Newsletter Subscription
Has Closed

Manage Your Subscription

Personal details used only by us and not given to others for any reason.

Vitamin E is available in natural and synthetic forms. The latest findings indicate natural vitamin E supplements seem to be superior to the synthetic forms. Most studies showing health benefits for vitamin E have used synthetic forms, which are cheaper and more widely available than the natural ones. (Natural forms will be designated with a "d," as in d-alpha. Synthetic forms will be designated with a "dl," as in dl-alpha.)

Products marked as "mixed tocopherols" (alpha, beta, delta and gamma) are absorbed well and also make a good choice.