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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.

Vitamin E supplements might be harmful when taken in early pregnancy. One study found that women who took vitamin E supplementation during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy had a 1.7 to nine-fold increase in congenital heart defects. The exact amount of vitamin E supplements used by pregnant women in this study is unknown.

A large population study showed that men using a multivitamin more than seven times per week in conjunction with a separate vitamin E supplement actually had a significantly increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

The American Heart Association recommends obtaining antioxidants, including vitamin E, by eating a well- balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than from supplements. If you are considering taking a vitamin E supplement, talk to your health care provider first to see if it is right for you.

What are the side effects of taking vitamin E?

Topical vitamin E can irritate the skin.

Overdoses of vitamin E supplements can cause nausea, headache, bleeding, fatigue, and other symptoms.

People who take blood thinners or other medicines should not take vitamin E supplements without first talking to their health care provider.

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