To Supplement Or Not? A Closer Look At Vitamin E

More about Vitamin E …

Vitamins For Energy

Acting in concert, essential vitamins such as vitamin E perform hundreds of roles in the body, ranging from healing wounds and building up bones to converting food into energy and repairing cellular damage. These essential nutrients are called micronutrients because your body needs only tiny amounts of them. Yet failing to get even those small quantities virtually guarantees disease.

As opposed to water-soluble vitamins, vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. Bone formation would be impossible without vitamins A, D, and K, the other three fat-soluble vitamins. Without vitamin E, your body would have difficulty absorbing and storing vitamin A. Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant (a compound that helps protect the body against damage from unstable molecules). Together this quartet help keep your eyes, skin, lungs, digestive and nervous system in good condition.

Within your body, your fat tissues and liver act as the main holding pens for these vitamins. To some extent, you can think of these vitamins as time-release micronutrients. It’s possible to consume them every now and again, perhaps in doses weeks or months apart rather than daily, and still get your fill.

DID YOU KNOW

  • Vitamin E does not prevent wrinkles; the extent of its benefits, if any, is unclear.
  • Two tablespoons of sunflower seeds provides about 15mg vitamin E (the daily recommended amount)
  • If you want to boost your intake, look for a multivitamin with 200 IU of vitamin E, which is more than the recommended daily amount but less than the tolerable upper limit intake.

How much vitamin E do you need?

The amount of vitamin E you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended intake for adults are 15 milligrams (mg) or 22 International Units (IU). Package labels list the amount of vitamin E in foods and dietary supplements in IU.

What foods provide vitamin E?

Nuts (such as peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds), seeds (such as sunflower), and vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oils) as well as salad dressings and margarines made from these oils are the best food sources of vitamin E. Food companies add vitamin E to some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, margarines and spreads. To find out which ones have vitamin E, check the product labels.

What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin E?

Vitamin E deficiency is very rare in healthy people. It is almost always linked to certain diseases where fat is not properly digested or absorbed. Examples include Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and certain rare genetic diseases.  Vitamin E deficiency can cause nerve and muscle damage that results in loss of feeling in the arms and legs, loss of body movement control, muscle weakness and vision problems.

Can vitamin E be harmful?

Eating vitamin E in foods is not risky or harmful. But getting too much in supplemental form can be harmful. As a fat-soluble vitamin, which is easily stored, it is easier to create vitamin toxicity. High doses of supplements, usually from taking individual vitamin supplements in addition to a powerful multivitamin, are often at fault.

If you take more than 800 mg per day, you risk side effects such as bleeding, headache, fatigue and blurred vision. To be on the safe side, talk with your doctor or dietician before taking more than the recommended daily amounts for vitamin E.

What kinds of vitamin E dietary supplements are available?

Vitamin E supplements come in different amounts and forms. Two main things to consider when choosing a vitamin E supplement are:

  1. The amount of vitamin E: Most once-daily multivitamin-mineral supplements provide about 30 IU of vitamin E, whereas vitamin E-only supplements usually contain 100 to 1,000 IU per capsule. The doses in vitamin E-only supplements are often much higher than the recommended amounts.
  2. The form of vitamin E: Although vitamin E sounds like a single substance, it is actually the name of eight related compounds in food, including alpha-tocopherol. Each form has a different potency, or level of activity in the body. Natural forms of vitamin E are better absorbed than synthetic forms.

What we do know is that it is clear that the perceived benefits of many popular products have not been confirmed through robust research. In some cases supplements may even be harmful, as with taking too much vitamin E.

Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t any supplements that work, or that all are harmful. Some supplements do have benefits and may be of use to you depending on your personal circumstances. I can’t tell you how to spend your money, but I do recommend that you look at the evidence and seek reliable information, including your doctor’s and/or dietician’s advice, before you splash the cash.

Above all, remember that your supplement regime is just an insurance policy, a supplement, not a substitute, for a healthful diet.

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