How Much Vitamin E is Really Enough?

12/22/2002 - Articles

How Much Vitamin E is Really Enough?

By: Tufts University


How Much Vitamin E is Really Enough?

Source: Tufts University
July 2, 2001 (Reviewed: December 22, 2002)

A daily dose of E

Many people include vitamin E supplements in their daily health routine, believing that they need the added antioxidant "boost" that supplements may give them. But an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that vitamin E supplements may not make a significant difference in the well-being of healthy, well-nourished people.

Putting E supplements to the test

In this analysis, 30 healthy men and women ages 18 to 60 took either a vitamin E supplement at one of five dosage levels (200, 400, 800, 1200, or 2000 IU) or an inactive placebo pill daily for 8 weeks. Urine tests performed before, during, and after the study measured levels of three substances that indicate the amount of oxidation, or damage, to the fat-containing molecules in cells.

No significant changes occurred in any of these indicators over the course of the study. This suggests that the vitamin E supplements did not offer any additional antioxidant protection over and above what the participants got from the nutrients in their usual diets.

What role for supplements ?

This report may come as a surprise to people who take the supplements and assume that they give them an edge against disease. But US health guidelines have never included a recommendation to take vitamin E in pill form. Several large studies have shown that vitamin E supplements appear to reduce the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease in some people, while other studies indicate that supplemental doses may help older people maintain a healthy immune system. Still, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, the group that sets the US Recommended Dietary Allowances, says that they still do not have enough scientific evidence to endorse vitamin E supplements for the general population.

It's worth pointing out that this was a small, short study, and the people it included were very healthy--all were well-nourished non-smokers within 20% of their ideal body weight. None had high cholesterol levels. It is not known if the results would have been similar in less healthy people. It's also important to remember that although these results show no additional protection from vitamin E in supplement form, vitamin E is an important nutrient and should be consumed from foods on a daily basis.

Vitamin E in foods

Researchers continue to investigate how vitamin E works to protect health, and under what--if any--circumstances people would benefit from an added dose. In the meantime, follow the advice of your healthcare provider, and try to include vitamin E-rich foods in daily meals. Good sources include vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, canola, olive), margarine, and almonds, with lesser amounts in fruits, vegetables, and grain foods. Wheat germ is especially high in E - try it sprinkled on yogurt or cereal or incorporated into baked goods.


  • Effects of vitamin E on lipid peroxidation in healthy persons. EA. Meagher, OP. Barry, JA. Lawson,  et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, vol. 285, pp. 1178--1182

Related Links
Vitamin E Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health
Vitamin E may keep memory sharp
Tufts University's Nutrition Navigator

Created on: 07/02/2001
Reviewed on: 12/22/2002

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