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Vitamin E

Other name(s):

alpha tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol, tocotrienol, 5,7,8 trimethyl-tocotrienol

General description

Vitamin E is a series of fat-soluble compounds called tocopherols. Alpha-tocopherol is the most potent and widely used form of vitamin E. Tocopherols are found in the oily residue of plants. They’re also found in plants and have vitamin E-like activity.

Vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin A are the antioxidant vitamins that protect the body from oxidative damage.

Vitamin E is a major antioxidant in the body. It works with selenium to help prevent oxidation of certain enzymes important to the body's metabolic processes. Vitamin E is found in all cell membranes of the body. It protects them from oxidative damage.

Vitamin E has been used when treating respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants.

Medically valid uses

Vitamin E prevents disease of the retina (retrolental fibroplasia) in premature infants on oxygen. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant in the human body.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through studies.

Vitamin E has been said to protect the body from environmental hazards. It may also act as an anti-cancer agent. It aids in the treatment of cystic fibrosis and breast disease. It also helps with leg muscle pains and wound healing. Vitamin E is also said to help prevent heart disease and improve sexual function. It may also aid in athletic performance, scar healing, and preventing Alzheimer's disease.

Recommended intake

Vitamin E is measured in both International Units (IU) and milligrams (mg).  RDA is the Recommended Dietary Allowance.


RDA/IU (dL-alpha-tocopherol)

RDA/mg (alpha-tocopherol)

Infants (0–6 months)*

6 IU

4 mg

Infants (6 months to 1 year)*

7.5 IU

5 mg

Children (1–3 years)

9 IU

6 mg

Children (4–8 years)

10.4 IU

7 mg

Children (9–13 years)

16.4 IU


Children and adults (14 years and older)

22.4 IU

15 mg

Pregnant women

22.4 IU

15 mg

Breastfeeding women

28.4 IU

19 mg

* Adequate Intake (AI)

Vitamin E is sold as a soft oral capsule. It comes in strengths from 100–1,000 IU. It also comes as a chewable tablet and an oral solution. The strength of the oral solution is 50 mg/ml. Vitamin E oil is also available.

You should swallow vitamin E capsules whole. Don’t chew them.

Food source

Nutrient content per 100 grams

Wheat germ

160 mg

Sunflower seeds

31 mg


22 mg

Corn oil

21 mg


17.9 mg


14.9 mg


7.0 mg


6.9 mg

Brazil nuts

6.5 mg

Cashew nuts

5.1 mg

Vitamin E is stable at room temperature. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It isn’t destroyed by cooking. It stays active in foods that have been frozen.

Vitamin E is also stable in light and in the presence of acid and alkali. It occurs as a thick, yellowish oil.

You may need more vitamin E if you have a malabsorption syndrome in which steatorrhea (excess fat in the stool) occurs. These include lactose intolerance, tropical and non-tropical sprue, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and ulcerative colitis. They can also include pancreatitis and issues that lead to surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas (pancreatectomy).

People need more vitamin E if they are over 55 years of age. You also need more if you consume moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol, have chronic alcoholism, or have liver diseases, such as cirrhosis.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need to take supplements, but you should talk to your healthcare provider before doing so.  

Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency in newborns include hemolytic anemia, disease of the retina (retinopathy), and swelling. Low vitamin E levels in adults have been linked with an increased risk for hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), cancer, and cataracts.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Vitamin E is a relatively safe vitamin. Vitamin E is fat soluble and can build up in the tissues of the body. But hypervitaminosis is rare. Symptoms of too much vitamin E include fatigue, weakness, nausea, blurred vision, flatulence, and diarrhea.

There are no known contraindications to vitamin E.

Vitamin E can increase the effects of oral blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants). This may cause an increased clotting time and bleeding.

Large doses of vitamin E can decrease your body's vitamin A reserves.

Online Medical Reviewer: Poulson, Brittany, RD, CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Wilkins, Joanna, R.D., C.D.
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2016