Vitamin E (Tocopherol, Tocotrienol) | Deficiencies, Excesses and Recommendations

vitamin e supplement

Vitamin E is often discussed as if it’s a single substance, but is actually the collective name given to a group of fat-soluble compounds, each with distinctive antioxidant activities.

Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation (hence the name). While some oxidation is a part of life’s processes, uncontrolled oxidation can cause significant damage. Antioxidants from food and nutrient sources help to reduce this damage.

For a real life example of oxidation, cut a banana in half. If you’re hungry, feel free to eat one of the halves, but leave the uneaten half on the table for a few hours. When you return you’ll notice that the exposed part of the banana has turned brown. This is from the flesh of the banana interacting with oxygen, i.e. oxidation.

A common household tip is to coat the exposed part of the banana with lemon juice as soon as it is cut so that it won’t turn brown. Lemon juice contains Vitamin C and other antioxidants which prevents oxidation of the banana.

Since Vitamin E is fat soluble, i.e. dissolves in fat, this nutrient limits the damage from fat undergoing the oxidation process.

The most common supplemental form of vitamin E is tocopherol; d-tocopherol is the natural form, and dl-tocopherol is the synthetic form. It takes about twice as much of the synthetic form to reach the same level of biological activity as the natural form. This is where examining product labels is especially important.

Once Vitamin E rich foods or supplements enter the body, tocopherol is distributed by the liver to the bloodstream. This is the only form of Vitamin E believed to enter plasma, and is the most researched. More recently, some exciting discoveries have been made regarding the less common, tocotrienol form of the vitamin.

What Could Happen If I Don’t Get Enough Vitamin E?

According to Medical News Today, Vitamin E deficiency symptoms include:

  • Vision loss
  • Poor immunity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor coordination
  • Numbness and tingling

These symptoms may be signs of other vitamin deficiencies or health issues. Talk to your doctor before purchasing a supplement to address symptoms above.

The Linus Pauling Institute contends that 90% of the people living in the United States (above 2 years of age) do not get adequate Vitamin E from diet. They recommend supplementing about 30 IU’s of Vitamin E per day. Only the tocopherol form of the vitamin has been shown to correct Vitamin E deficiency symptoms.

A Vitamin E deficiency might not be the result of inadequate intake of the vitamin. It can be due to other causes, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Malabsorption (e.g. liver or gallbladder disease)
  • Inadequate fat intake (fat soluble vitamins require fat for proper absorption)

What Could Happen If I Get Too Much Vitamin E?

  • Interference with the activities of Vitamin K
  • Bleeding (especially when taken in conjunction with blood thinning drugs or supplements)

Little Changes to Your Diet to Get More

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Add plenty of nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables to your salad. Use olive oil as part of your salad dressing.

If you choose to take a supplement, we generally recommend using a brand that submits to independent, third-party testing, or has been independently tested and approved by Consumer Labs.

Now Foods Gamma E Complex
Gamma E Complex
The vitamin E family of tocopherols and tocotrienols is well known for its role in the maintenance of cardiovascular health and normal immune system function.*
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Now Red Palm Tocotrienols
Red Palm Tocotrienols
Tocotrienols are powerful free radical scavengers that may help to promote normal arterial function, healthy cholesterol metabolism, and brain and liver health.*
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Potential Life Enhancements


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  • May protect the brain
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