Vitamin E

Vitamin E has made a name for itself as the beauty vitamin. Extraordinarily popular as both a supplement and oil, Vitamin E has been gaining speed in the beauty industry as a way to help keep skin supple. However, did you know it has uses far beyond that and you can actually get enough Vitamin E without supplements at all if you choose?

What Is It?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin,[1] best absorbed by your body when ingested in conjunction with at least a small amount of fat. Vitamin E is actually also a group of 8 different compounds that make up the Vitamin E complex one would find in nature. These compounds fall under two main categories called tocopherols and tocotrienols.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it is one of the vitamins that work in the body to fight free radicals. Interestingly, Vitamin E specifically is pointed to as an antioxidant that helps prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and releasing free radicals in the first place.

Just as other antioxidants, Vitamin E helps to slow cell degeneration and naturally reduce signs of aging as a by-product of fighting free radicals. In particular it also helps strengthen the capillaries close to your skin’s surface, which helps your skin cells stay strong and retain elasticity.

Elasticity in the skin is the property that allows it remain wrinkle-free. It is also known, whether ingested or applied topically, to improve the strength and texture of your hair.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

It is not uncommon for bodybuilders to use tanning beds as a tool to help them achieve their desired look. While tanning beds can help give that golden glow, they can also be severely drying and damaging to the skin, causing premature signs of aging.

Since Vitamin E in particular is an antioxidant known to greatly benefit the skin’s elasticity and moisture levels,[2] it is possible that utilizing a higher Vitamin E consumption may prevent these unwanted side effects of tanning.

Also, any fitness enthusiast who wants to bulk up may end up increasing their meat consumption. Certain types of meat, red meat in particular, contain lots of omega-6’s. Omega 6’s are a type of fat that can contribute to inflammation in the body.

When you consume a high amount of omega-6’s, your body in turn demands higher dosages of Vitamin E to help counteract the inflammation. If this sounds like you, adding more Vitamin E to your diet may be just what the doctor ordered.

What Foods Contain It?

Luckily, Vitamin E is readily found in nature. Foods like eggs, nuts, wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, and certain vegetables all contain sufficient amounts of Vitamin E such that including them in your diet will almost guarantee you meet your RDA.

One food that contains the most Vitamin E is sunflower seeds--if you make these your afternoon snack you can easily get 20mg of Vitamin E, which is actually slightly higher than the RDA for this vitamin.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E [3] for individuals aged 14 and older is 15mg per day. In women who are breastfeeding, this amount is increased to 19mg.

This is because infants who are receiving nutrition solely from mother’s milk are more likely to receive an adequate amount of most vitamins if the mother is taking more than normal;when the mother’s body has “extra” to spare, it finds its way into the milk which make for a stronger baby as well.

Are there Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Vitamin E toxicity is very rare, and generally would only be achieved by very aggressive supplementation. The only known side effect is that of an anticoagulant; that is to say, it thins your bloods.

This can be dangerous for anyone, but in any individuals who take aspirin or other blood thinners like warfarin or blood pressure medication, it can greatly increase your risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

Are there Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Vitamin E deficiency is recognized as so rare in humans that it is virtually nonexistent. Typically, if an individual has a Vitamin E deficiency it is because they have a gastrointestinal disorder that causes fat malabsorption which brings along its own host of symptoms. Outside of this case, it is virtually impossible to become Vitamin E deficient.

Final Take

Supplements for Vitamin E are rarely needed, and some studies show that consuming your Vitamin E through supplements rather than through wholesome foods that naturally contain it might not be the best solution. In fact, in men who consistently supplemented with high dosages of Vitamin E, there was also a higher rate of prostate cancer.

The studies that were done are not extensive enough to provide conclusive evidence just yet, but for the time being one may want to stick with veggies over gel-caps!


[1] Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Vitamin E- Consumer Fact Sheet. Us Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.

[2] WebMD. Vitamin E., 2015.

[3] The Mayo Clinic. Vitamin E Dosing., 2013.