Vitamin E Deficiencies

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Vitamin E status can be estimated by measuring serum alpha-tocopherol or the ratio of serum alpha-tocopherol to total serum lipids. A low ratio suggests vitamin E deficiency. Deficiencies are uncommon in the developed world except in individuals with fat malabsorption syndromes.

The main symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency include mild hemolytic anemia and nonspecific neurologic effects. In adults, alpha-tocopherol levels are less than 5 μg/ml (<11.6 μmol/L) are associated with a deficiency. In adults with hyperlipidemia, a low ratio of serum alpha-tocopherol to lipids (<0.8 mg/g total lipid) is the most accurate indicator.

Vitamin E toxicity is uncommon, but intakes of vitamin E greater than 1000 mg/d may result in a significant bleeding risk, especially if the individual is taking anticoagulation medications. Although adverse effects are rarely observed even in individuals taking very high dosages of vitamin E, a meta-analysis showed a possible increase in mortality at dosages of 400 IU/d and higher (alpha-tocopherol only)

 Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with several forms, but alpha-tocopherol is the only one used by the human body. Its main role is to act as an antioxidant, scavenging loose electrons—so-called “free radicals”—that can damage cells. It also enhances immune function and prevents clots from forming in heart arteries.

 Antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin E, came to public attention in the 1980s when scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis, and might also contribute to cancer, vision loss, and a host of other chronic conditions.

Vitamin E has the ability to protect cells from free radical damage as well as reduce the production of free radicals in certain situations. However, conflicting study results have dimmed some of the promise of using high dose vitamin E to prevent chronic diseases.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E for males and females ages 14 years and older is 15 mg daily (or 22 international units, IU), including women who are pregnant. Lactating women need slightly more at 19 mg (28 IU) daily.

Vitamin E is a nutrient that's important to vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin.

Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that might protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals might play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. If you take vitamin E for its antioxidant properties, keep in mind that the supplement might not offer the same benefits as naturally occurring antioxidants in food.

Foods rich in vitamin E include canola oil, olive oil, margarine, almonds and peanuts. You can also get vitamin E from meats, dairy, leafy greens and fortified cereals. Vitamin E is also available as an oral supplement in capsules or drops.

Vitamin E deficiency can cause nerve pain (neuropathy).

The recommended daily amount of vitamin E for adults is 15 milligrams a day. Vitamin E is found in plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts, peanut butter
  • Beet greens, collard greens, spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Red bell pepper
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Avocado

 

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