The Benefits of Vitamin E

The Benefits of Vitamin E

Your body uses vitamin E for multiple purposes, including protecting you from oxidative stress and supporting your immune system. You can get vitamin E from certain foods and dietary supplements.

Though vitamin E is often thought of as a single compound, it’s actually a group of eight fat-soluble compounds with powerful antioxidant effects (1).

Of these eight chemical forms, alpha-tocopherol best meets the dietary requirements of humans (2).

Vitamin E exists naturally in certain foods, including seeds, nuts, some vegetables, and some fortified products. You can also take it as a dietary supplement.

It plays many roles in your body. It’s perhaps best known for its antioxidant effects, protecting your cells from oxidative damage by neutralizing harmful molecules called free radicals. In addition, it’s needed for proper immune function and cellular signaling (1).

That’s why it’s not surprising that research suggests taking vitamin E supplements may benefit your health in several ways.

This article covers 8 potential benefits of vitamin E.

Oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when there’s an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the production and accumulation of compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS). This can lead to cellular damage and increased disease risk (3).

Because vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body, studies have shown that supplementing with high doses of it can reduce markers of oxidative stress and boost antioxidant defenses in some populations (4).

For example, a 2018 study in 54 people with diabetic nephropathy — kidney damage caused by high blood sugar — found that supplementing with 800 IU of vitamin E per day for 12 weeks significantly increased levels of glutathione peroxidase (GPx) compared with a placebo (4).

GPx is a group of antioxidant enzymes that protect your cells from oxidative damage.

A 2021 study also showed that supplementing with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C daily for 8 weeks reduced markers of oxidative stress, such as malondialdehyde and ROS, in women with endometriosis (5).

Having high blood pressure and high levels of blood lipids such as LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides may increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Promisingly, research suggests that vitamin E supplements may help reduce heart disease risk factors such as these in some people.

A 2019 review of 18 studies found that, compared with placebo treatments, vitamin E supplements significantly reduced systolic but not diastolic blood pressure — the top and bottom numbers of blood pressure readings, respectively (6).

Some studies also show that taking vitamin E with omega-3 supplements may reduce LDL and triglyceride levels in people with metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions, including high blood fat levels, that increases the risk of heart disease and other health conditions (7).

NAFLD includes a number of conditions that cause an accumulation of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol.

According to research findings, vitamin E supplements may improve some aspects of health in people with NAFLD.

A 2021 review of eight studies found that supplementing with vitamin E reduced levels of the liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), decreased blood lipid levels, and improved liver health in people with NAFLD (8).

Elevated AST and ALT levels can indicate liver inflammation and damage in people with NAFLD, so lower levels are favorable.

Dysmenorrhea is a condition characterized by severe and frequent menstrual pain, such as cramps and pelvic pain.

Promisingly, research suggests vitamin E supplements may reduce pain in women with this condition.

In a 2018 study in 100 women with dysmenorrhea, taking 200 IU of vitamin E daily relieved menstrual pain more than a placebo. The effects were even better when the vitamin was combined with an omega-3 supplement containing 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA (9).

Additionally, a 2021 study showed that supplementing with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C daily for 8 weeks helped reduce the severity of pelvic pain and dysmenorrhea in women with endometriosis (5).

Vitamin E supplements have also been linked to several other health benefits:

  1. May benefit skin health. Vitamin E supplements may be helpful for those with certain skin disorders, such as eczema. However, research is currently limited, and more studies are needed to learn more about this potential benefit (10).
  2. May benefit cognitive health. Maintaining optimal vitamin E levels and taking supplements may help protect against cognitive decline. But it’s still unclear whether the supplements benefit people with cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s disease (11, 12).
  3. May benefit older adults. Because vitamin E plays important roles in health, such as reducing inflammation and improving immune function, supplements may benefit people who have increased needs or don’t get enough in their diets, such as some older adults (13).
  4. May improve lung function. Studies have shown that vitamin E supplements could improve lung function and certain symptoms of asthma in children and adults (14, 15, 16).

Vitamin E deficiency in otherwise healthy individuals is uncommon, as most people get enough from their diet.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the adequate daily intake of vitamin E is (1):

Vitamin E deficiency

While vitamin E deficiency is generally rare, it’s more common in certain populations.

For example, people with medical conditions associated with fat malabsorption, including cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s disease, are at an increased risk (1).

Additionally, those with certain rare inherited diseases, such as abetalipoproteinemia, are more likely to have a deficiency (1).

People with insufficient dietary intake, such as children in developing countries and people with anorexia nervosa, may also develop a vitamin E deficiency as a result of malnourishment (17, 18).

Overdosing on food-based vitamin E is unlikely. However, it is possible to consume too much vitamin E through supplements, and this can lead to negative side effects and harm your health.

For example, studies have found that vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of prostate cancer in healthy men (19).

High dose vitamin E supplements may also increase the risk of bleeding (1).

According to the NIH, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for supplemental vitamin E is currently set at 1,000 mg per day (1).

However, health concerns — including a possible risk of increased mortality — are associated with doses much lower than the UL. Therefore, you should generally not supplement with vitamin E unless a qualified healthcare professional recommends it and monitors your intake.

Keep in mind that doses found in vitamin E supplements vary significantly, with some providing much more than a healthy person needs each day. Therefore, make sure to check the labels of vitamin supplements carefully.

Interactions with medication

Vitamin E can potentially interact with certain medications.

While a few examples are listed below, it’s always important to talk with a healthcare professional about the supplements you’re taking — especially before they start you on prescription medication.

Vitamin E may have negative interactions with (1):

  • anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications
  • simvastatin and niacin
  • chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Even though nutritional supplements are sometimes necessary, it’s almost always best to meet your nutrient needs through food if possible.

If you’re looking to increase your intake of vitamin E-rich foods, here are a few good options (1):

Keep in mind that the best way to get enough vitamin E in your diet is to consume a variety of nutritious foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, on a daily basis.

Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble nutrient. It’s a powerful antioxidant and is needed for immune health and cellular signaling in your body.

Many foods contain vitamin E, but you can also consume it through dietary supplements.

Some studies show that taking vitamin E supplements may benefit certain populations, including people with diabetic nephropathy and NAFLD.

However, because most people get enough vitamin E through their diet, supplements are often unnecessary.

Further, high doses of vitamin E supplements can cause side effects and interact with certain medications.

If you’re considering adding more vitamin E to your diet, talk with a healthcare professional first about your specific health concerns.

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