Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and is actually the name given to a family of 8 different naturally occurring chemicals which have a range of functions within the body. Primarily, vitamin E is an essential part of the bodies anti-oxidant system and helps protect the body against oxidative stress. Anti-oxidants fight oxidative stress by ‘defusing’ the damaging chemical reactions triggered by free radicals. Free radicals are very unstable and destructive compounds that can cause damage to cells, cell membranes and DNA.

Vitamin E deficiency results in the disease haemolytic anemia. This is when the body breaks down red blood cells before they are ready. Other problems associated with vitamin E deficiency are impaired immune function and changes to the spinal cord and nervous system.

Vitamin E deficiency is quite rare. However, because it is a fat soluble vitamin, deficiency can occur in people with fat absorption problems or conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s disease. Smokers are at an increased risk of deficiency due to the oxidative stress caused by cigarette smoke and premature babes are also at risk due to low vitamin E stores at birth and an immature digestive tract which effects vitamin E absorption.

Food Sources of Vitamin E

The best sources of vitamin E are plant oils such as canola, safflower and sunflower. Other good sources include peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, asparagus, avocado and wheat germ.

Vitamin E is affected by cooking and processing so the more processed the food is, the poorer the source of vitamin E.

How Much Vitamin E Do We Need?

The Adequate Intake (AI) level for vitamin E is 10mg/day for men and 7mg/day for women (NHMRC).

Meal and Snack Ideas

  • Make your own salad dressings using vegetable oils such as sunflower and canola.
  • Make up little snack bags of peanuts, almonds and sunflower seeds to munch on throughout the day.
  • Spread your sandwiches with avocado instead of butter or add avocado to a salad or pasta dish.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Vitamin E is relatively non-toxic however excess intake can interfere with the role of vitamin K in blood clotting, putting people at risk of haemorrhaging (bleeding). An Upper Limit (UL) level has been set at 1000mg/day from natural sources and 1100mg/day from synthetic sources.

  • Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition 8th Edition, Byrd-Bredbenner, 2009.

About Kate Freeman
Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist who is passionate about providing honest, simple nutrition advice and doing it in such a way that inspires and motivates you to make positive lifestyle changes to achieve your health and nutritional goals. She's married with 2 children and live in New South Wales, Australia.

2 Responses to Vitamin E

  1. Pingback: Vitamin K « Kate Freeman Nutrition

  2. Pingback: Folate « Kate Freeman Nutrition

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