The majority of the vitamin E consumed is in the form of vegetable fats, as animal products generally don’t contain much. If you want to get your vitamin E along with lots of other beneficial nutrients, then here’s the good news: your alpha-tocopherol is found in many healthy plant foods, including nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, and some orange and red fruits.
That means that it isn’t hard to get the recommended intake levels of this important vitamin. And as a result, we don’t see a lot of overt vitamin E deficiency these days. Symptoms of true vitamin E deficiency can include the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Impaired vision
- Numbness and tingling
- Immune system problems
- Coordination and walking difficulty
The main reason someone would be deficient in vitamin E, would be if they have a disorder that impairs their ability to digest and absorb fat. Since vitamin E is fat-soluble, a variety of conditions that make it hard for people to digest fat can lead to a risk of deficiency. These include Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, an inability to secrete bile from the liver into the digestive tract, or a rare inherited disorder called abetalipoproteinemia that interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients in the blood. Other disorders that affect the absorption of fat, such as cystic fibrosis or liver disease, may lead to deficiency over time. The main role is to act as an antioxidant, scavenging loose electrons—so-called “free radicals”—that can damage cells. It also enhances immune function and prevents clots from forming in heart arteries.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E for males and females ages 14 years and older is 15 mg daily (or 22 international units, IU), including women who are pregnant. Lactating women need slightly more at 19 mg (28 IU) daily. There are a number of foods that are a great source of vitamin E. Just snacking on an ounce of almonds can cover nearly half your daily requirement.
Similarly, extremely low-fat diets can be problematic because some fat is needed to absorb vitamin E. If you suspect you may be deficient, you can get your vitamin E blood levels tested. The normal range of alpha-tocopherol in the blood is 5.5–17 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for adults and 3–18.4 mg/L in children. For numbers at the low end of those ranges or below, you may want to make a point of eating more vitamin E-rich foods. This can be easy to do by simply adding a tablespoon of oil to your salad could make a significant difference.
The purpose of this Vitamin is to serve as a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin that makes an important contribution to your health. Getting enough of it is important for keeping inflammation and oxidative damage at bay, and it may even support heart, brain, and eye health. While deficiency is rare, it can be a higher risk among people with certain genetic or fat-malabsorptive conditions. Healthy dietary sources include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, and avocados. Due to the risk for overdose and mixed results in studies, taking a supplement is not recommended for most healthy people. Eating a variety of whole plant foods, and including healthy fats in your diet to promote absorption, is the best way to make sure you get enough vitamin E.