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Vitamin E is key for strong immunity and healthy skin and eyes. In recent years, vitamin E supplements have become popular as antioxidants. These are substances that protect cells from damage. However, the risks and benefits of taking vitamin E supplements are still unclear. 

Why do people take vitamin E?

Many people use vitamin E supplements in the hopes that the vitamin's antioxidant properties will prevent or treat disease. But studies of vitamin E for preventing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and many other conditions have been inconclusive. 

So far, the only established benefits of vitamin E supplements are in people who have an actual deficiency. Vitamin E deficiencies are rare. They're more likely in people who have diseases, such as digestive problems and cystic fibrosis. People on very low-fat diets may also have low levels of vitamin E.

How much vitamin E should you take?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) includes the vitamin E you get from both the food you eat and any supplements you take.

Category

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

in milligrams (mg) and International Units (IU)

CHILDREN

1-3 years

6 mg/day (9 IU)

4-8 years

7 mg/day (10.4 IU)

9-13 years

11 mg/day (16.4 IU)

FEMALES

14 years and up

15 mg/day (22.4 IU)

Pregnant

15 mg/day (22.4 IU)

Breastfeeding

19 mg/day (28.5 IU)

MALES

14 years and up

15 mg/day (22.4 IU)

The tolerable upper intake levels of a supplement are the highest amount that most people can take safely. Higher doses might be used to treat vitamin E deficiencies. But you should never take more unless a doctor says so.

Category

(Children & Adults)

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) of

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

in milligrams (mg) and International Units (IU)

1-3 years

200 mg/day (300 IU)

4-8 years

300 mg/day (450 IU)

9-13 years

600 mg/day (900 IU)

14-18 years

800 mg/day (1,200 IU)

19 years and up

1,000 mg/day (1,500 IU)

Because vitamin E is fat-soluble, supplements are best absorbed with food.

Can you get vitamin E naturally from foods?

Most people get enough vitamin E from food. Good sources of vitamin E include:

  • Vegetable oils
  • Green leafy vegetables, like spinach
  • Fortified cereals and other foods
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

What are the risks of taking vitamin E?

The risks and benefits of taking vitamin E are still unclear. Long-term use (over 10 years) of vitamin E has been linked to an increase in stroke. 

In addition, an analysis of clinical trials found patients who took either synthetic vitamin E or natural vitamin E in doses of 400 IU per day -- or higher -- had an increased risk of dying from all causes, which seems to increase even more at higher doses. Cardiovascular studies also suggest that patients with diabetes or cardiovascular disease who take natural vitamin E at 400 IU per day have an increased risk of heart failure and heart failure-related hospitalization.

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