Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

Understand vitamin E and vitamin E targets in the Nutrient Explorer

What it is

Vitamin E is a collection of fat-soluble vitamins

What it does

Vitamin E primarily functions as an antioxidant.

Recommended intake

The recommended intake for vitamin E is 15mg per day for men and women who aren’t lactating. Lactation can increase intake requirements for vitamin E.

There is no suggested upper limit for vitamin E intake from natural dietary sources of vitamin E, but most health authorities recommend consuming no more than 1000mg of vitamin E per day from fortified foods and supplements.

Likelihood of tracking completeness: Very low

Vitamin E is not a nutrient that food manufacturers are required to disclose on nutrition labels. The vast majority of food and beverage manufacturers do not voluntarily list vitamin E content on nutrition labels, so most branded products in the MacroFactor database lack information on vitamin E. So, if you’d like to accurately track your vitamin E intake, you’ll need to make a point of mostly tracking “common foods,” which come from research-grade databases that have full nutrient reporting.

For more on when you can track using branded foods versus common foods when you’re trying to accurately monitor your intake of particular nutrients, you should check out this article.

Likelihood of insufficient intake: Very high

Most adults don’t meet intake recommendations for vitamin E, but it’s questionable whether that’s particularly important.

For more on nutrients with a greater likelihood of insufficient or excessive intake, you should check out this article.

Signs of deficiency

Very few people need to worry about vitamin E deficiencies, because low intakes of vitamin E have not been shown to cause vitamin E deficiencies in healthy individuals. According to the EFSA:

“The  classification  of ‘vitamin  E’  as  an  essential nutrient  is  based  on  animal  studies and  primary  and secondary α-tocopherol  deficiency  in  humans.  The  need  for α-tocopherol  in  order  to  prevent  fetal resorption  in  pregnant  rats  fed  lard-containing  diets  is  at  the  origin  of  the  discovery  of  the  vitamin.  The  chemical  name ‘tocopherol’  derives  from  its  essentiality  for  normal reproduction in animals, even though the essentiality for this function has never been demonstrated in humans. … Symptomatic α-tocopherol deficiency in individuals without any disease and who consume diets ‘low’ in α-tocopherol has not been reported.”

However, in people who have genetic disorders that stop virtually all absorption of vitamin E, neurological problems and retinopathy can occur.

Good sources

Nuts, seeds, peppers, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and wheat germ are good sources of vitamin E. Many oils are also fortified with vitamin E to prevent degradation during cooking. 

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about micronutrients generally, there’s a five-part series on the MacroFactor website you might enjoy.

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