Vitamin E is the name we use for a group of fat soluble nutrients that act as antioxidants. We produce free radicals when our body converts food into energy or we are exposed to certain compounds in the environment. These free radicals can cause cellular damage. Antioxidants can help fight that damage.
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What does vitamin E do?
In addition to helping our body with free radicals, vitamin E helps our immune system (1). It can help widen blood vessels which can help prevent blood clots. Mostly we hear about the benefits of vitamin E with regards to its antioxidant properties.
Where can you get vitamin E?
Because vitamin E is fat soluble, it is found in foods that contain fat such as vegetable oils (sunflower and safflower oil are great sources). Nuts, peanuts, and seeds also contain vitamin C. Green vegetables will contain some vitamin E. It is also added to foods such as breakfast cereals, juice, and margarine.
The recommended intakes are based on the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). The RDA is estimated to meet the needs of 97-98% of all healthy individuals (2). The recommendations are higher than the amounts to just protect from deficiency. For infants 0-12 months, the recommended amounts are based on the amounts in breastmilk (2).
The RDA is listed in milligrams. Vitamin E is actually a group of nutrients, so not all vitamin E acts equally. The recommendations are for alpha-tocopherol, which is the form maintained in plasma. One mg vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) = 1 mg RRR-alpha-tocopherol (naturally sourced) or 2 mg all rac-alpha-tocopherol (synthetically sourced) (2).
International Units versus Milligrams
Since 2020, all labels in the US should be listed in milligrams. Old labels may still use International Units.
- 1 mg alpha-tocopherol = 1.49 IU natural or 2.22 IU synthetic
- 1 IU natural = 0.67 mg alpha-tocopherol
- 1 IU synthetic = 0.45 mg alpha-tocopherol
|0-6 months||4 mg|
|7-12 months||5 mg|
|1-3 years||6 mg|
|4-8 years||7 mg|
|9-13 years||11 mg|
What happens if you don’t get enough?
Vitamin E deficiency is not common. Premature infants may be at increased risk and may require supplementation. People with fat-malabsorptive disorders may also be at increased risk.
Can you get too much?
It does not seem possible to get too much vitamin E from diet alone, however it is possible from excess supplementation. High doses of supplements are associated with hemorrhages. As always, speak with your physician prior to starting any supplement.
Vitamin E Rich Foods for Kids
- corn oil
- peanut butter
- safflower oil
- soybean oil
- sunflower oil
- sunflower seeds
- wheat germ oil
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.