Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

This fat-soluble micronutrient is available in a vast array of foods as well as in a synthetic form. It plays a vital role in the immune system as well as a protective element against free radicals.

Vitamin E (tocopherol) benefits

A known antioxidant, vitamin E (tocopherol) benefits the body in numerous ways. Aside from preventing free radicals from causing cellular damage, it also aids in keeping the body healthy with a strong immune system to protect itself against viruses and bacteria.

Vitamin E (tocopherol) is critical to the formation of red blood cells and assists the body in using vitamin K. It also aids in blood flow by enlarging blood vessels therefore lowering the risk for blood clots. Studies are still ongoing to see if vitamin E (tocopherol) plays a role in preventing cancer, heart disease, dementia, liver disease, and stroke.

Sources of vitamin E (tocopherol)

The best sources of vitamin E (tocopherol) are vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oil. Oils made from corn and soybean provide some vitamin E (tocopherol) but not as much as the other oils. Nuts are also excellent sources of vitamin E (tocopherol), specifically peanuts, hazelnuts, but one of the richest sources is almonds. Seeds (sunflower seeds) similarly contain strong amounts of vitamin E (tocopherol). Aside from the many breakfast foods fortified with vitamin E (tocopherol), some green vegetables (spinach and broccoli) also contain some vitamin E (tocopherol).

It should be mentioned that the naturally occurring form of vitamin E is much more potent than the synthetic form of the vitamin which is known as alpha-tocopherol. 1It is estimated that 100 IU of natural vitamin E is equivalent to about 150 IU of the laboratory-made version.

Recommended amounts

Set forth by the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for vitamin E (tocopherol) are below (some individuals may be placed on a plan that requires higher than normal amounts to manage a specific issue they may be experiencing). Note there are two values, the mg amount is for the daily recommended intake and the IU amount is what is used on food packaging as well as dietary supplements.

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin E (tocopherol)2
Age Amount
0-6 months 4mg/day (6 IU)
7-12 months 5mg/day (7.5 IU)
1-3 years 6mg/day (9 IU)
4-8 years 7mg/day (10.4 IU)
9-13 years 11mg/day (16.4 IU)
14+ years 15mg/day (22.4 IU)
Pregnant Females 15mg/day (22.4 IU)
Nursing Females 19mg/day (28.4 IU)

Vitamin E (tocopherol) deficiency

It is rare for an individual to suffer from a vitamin E (tocopherol) deficiency. If one is deficient, it is usually linked to a disease where fat is not properly digested or absorbed by the body. Diseases like Crohn's disease or cystic fibrosis are examples of this. In order for vitamin E to be properly digested, it requires some fat for absorption to occur. Symptoms of a vitamin E (tocopherol) deficiency include nerve / muscle damage, loss of feeling in the arms and legs, loss of body movement, weakness, and vision issues. One can also have a weakened immune system as a result of low amounts of a vitamin E (tocopherol).

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