Many people are surprised to learn that “vitamin E” is not a single vitamin. It’s actually a collective name for a group of fat-soluble compounds. Naturally occurring vitamin E exists in eight unique chemical forms: alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol. Each has varying levels of biological activity, and it’s best to take as a complex, (usually listed on a supplement label as “mixed tocopherols”) for maximum benefit. Vitamin E is found naturally in some foods, added to many food products (as a preservative), and is available as a dietary supplement.
In the body, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) is involved in immunity, cellular communication, and other metabolic processes. As an antioxidant, vitamin E works extremely well to protect cells from damage – one of the reasons why it is also used as a food preservative. This antioxidant activity can potentially protect against the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
You can get the recommended amount of vitamin E by eating a variety of foods including:
Vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oils
Nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, and, especially, almonds) and seeds (sunflower seeds)
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli
Because the digestive tract requires fat to absorb vitamin E, people with fat-malabsorption disorders are more likely to become deficient. Some people may need a vitamin E nutritional supplement.
When you shop for a supplement look for “mixed tocopherols” on the label. Many supplements use only the d-alpha-tocopherol part of vitamin E and it is better to use the entire complex, similar to how it occurs in food.
Vitamin E supplements have the potential to interact with several types of medications. It’s best to speak with your holistic doctor before adding any supplement to your nutrition regimen.
National Institutes of Health. “Fact Sheet on Vitamin E for Health Professionals.” Accessed 6 Oct. 2020
“Vitamin E Fact Sheet for Consumers.”
Kowdley KV, Mason JB, Meydani SN, Cornwall S, Grand RJ. Vitamin E deficiency and impaired cellular immunity related to intestinal fat malabsorption. Gastroenterology 1992;102:2139-42. Accessed 6 Oct 2020
Blumberg JB, Frei B. Why clinical trials of vitamin E and cardiovascular diseases may be fatally flawed. Commentary on “The relationship between dose of vitamin E and suppression of oxidative stress in humans.” Free Radic Biol Med 2007;43:1374-6. Accessed 6 Oct 2020