Introduction Vitamin E is a nutrient and an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells from certain kinds of damage.

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1 Vitamin E Introduction Vitamin E is a nutrient and an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells from certain kinds of damage. Not having enough vitamin E can cause many health problems, such as nerve and muscle damage, as well as an increased risk for infections. This is because vitamin E is needed by many different parts of the body. This reference summary will help you better understand the importance of vitamin E in the body and how you can make sure you are getting the right amount. Vitamin E Vitamin E is a nutrient found in some food. Cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and to carry out many important functions. Vitamin E is important to muscles and nerves. Muscles help the body move. Nerves carry sensations and movement orders between the brain and every body part. Without enough vitamin E, muscles become weak and nerves may be more easily damaged. Vitamin E also helps widen blood vessels. This stops blood from clotting within the vessels. Vitamin E plays an important role in your immune system. The immune system fights off invading germs, such as bacteria and viruses. Since vitamin E is an antioxidant, it helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are formed when your body breaks down the food you eat into energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment, such as pollution and radiation. 1

2 Vitamin E Deficiency Not getting enough vitamin E is called vitamin E deficiency. Without enough vitamin E, nerves and muscles can become damaged. You are also more likely to get infections. Vitamin E deficiency is very rare in healthy people. Often vitamin E deficiency happens because of other diseases. The diseases that cause vitamin E deficiency do not allow the body to absorb enough vitamin E. Examples include Crohn s disease and cystic fibrosis, as well as some rare genetic diseases. Crohn s disease is a condition in which the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed for a long period of time. It usually affects the small intestine and colon. Cystic fibrosis is a common hereditary disease. Cystic fibrosis causes glands to produce thick, abnormal mucus. People with diseases that limit nutrients from being absorbed are at risk for vitamin E deficiency. Check with your healthcare provider if you are at risk or are concerned about vitamin E deficiency. Healthy people rarely show any signs that they are not getting enough vitamin E. However, vitamin E deficiency can cause: Loss of feeling in the arms and legs Loss of control over body movements Muscle weakness Vision problems Vitamin E deficiency also increases the risk for infections. Vitamin E boosts the immune system so it can fight off bacteria and viruses that cause infection. Sources of Vitamin E You can get vitamin E in two ways: through the foods you eat and from supplements. Vitamin E is found naturally in some foods. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin E by eating a variety of vitamin E-rich foods. 2

3 Vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower are among the best sources of vitamin E. Corn and soybean oils also provide some vitamin E. Nuts and seeds are among the best sources of vitamin E. Examples include: Peanuts Hazelnuts Almonds Sunflower seeds Green vegetables also provide some vitamin E. Spinach and broccoli are examples. There are also foods that have vitamin E added to them. These are known as foods that are fortified with vitamin E. Fortified foods include cereal, fruit juice, margarines and spreads, as well as other foods. Check the label to make sure the products you buy are fortified with vitamin E. Vitamin E is available in the form of a supplement if you can t get enough of it from your diet. Supplements are most often pills. Vitamin E is included in most multivitamins. Check with a health care provider to see whether you need vitamin E supplements and how much you should take. Vitamin E may affect or be affected by other medications that you are taking, such as warfarin (Coumadin ) or certain cancer treatments. Recommended Amounts The amount of vitamin E that a person should take in each day is described in International Units, or IU. The recommended amount depends on the age, gender, and health of the person. From birth to 6 months of age, the recommended amount of vitamin E is 6 IU per day. For infants 7-12 months the recommended amount is 7.5 IU. 3

4 Children 1 to 3 years of age should get 9 IU of vitamin E per day. Four to 8 year old children should get 10.4 IU. The daily recommended amount of vitamin E for children ages 9 to 13 is 16.4 IU. After age 13, it is recommended that all people take in 22.4 IU of vitamin E per day. This is also true for pregnant women. However, women who are breastfeeding should get 28.4 IU per day. Talk to your healthcare provider about recommended dosing if you are at an increased risk of vitamin E deficiency. In addition to daily recommendations, your healthcare provider will also recommend an upper limit. Adults should not consume more than 1,500 IU of vitamin E in natural forms (from foods) or more than 1,100 IU of vitamin E in synthetic forms (vitamin supplements). Children have a lower upper limit than adults. Vitamin E Toxicity While it is uncommon to take in too much vitamin E, it is still possible. Vitamin E toxicity is usually caused by taking too many supplements. Vitamin E toxicity is not usually caused by getting too much vitamin E from food. In fact, most people get less than the recommended amount of vitamin E. High doses of vitamin E from supplements increase the risk of bleeding. Vitamin E reduces the blood s ability to form clots after a cut or injury. High doses of vitamin E from supplements may also cause serious bleeding in the brain. This is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. High doses of vitamin E may also increase the risk of death in some adults with serious health conditions. Vitamin E toxicity can be treated by stopping any supplements of vitamin E. Medication and hospitalization may also be needed. 4

5 It is important to stay within the recommended dosage range and talk to a healthcare provider before starting vitamin supplements. Doing so can help prevent vitamin E toxicity. Summary Vitamin E is a vitamin that the body needs to function and stay healthy. Vitamin E plays an important role in your muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. It also plays an important role in your immune system, helping to fight off infections. Not having enough vitamin E can cause many health problems such as muscle and nerve problems, as well as an increased risk for infections. This is because vitamin E is needed by many different parts of the body. You can get vitamin E two ways: through food sources and from supplements. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, and green vegetables. Some other foods, like cereal and some fruit juices, often have added vitamin E. You can also take vitamin E supplements. Check with your healthcare provider to see how much you should take. 5

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