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, cataracts, and many other conditions have been disappointing.
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.
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
14 years and up
14 years and up
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.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) of
19 years and up
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
What are the risks of taking vitamin E?
The risks and benefits of taking vitamin E are still unclear. Research has linked the use of vitamin E to an increase in hemorrhagic 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.
When inhaled in a vaping product vitamin E acetate may be responsible for e-cigarette, or vaping, product-use associated lung injury (EVALI).
What are the side effects of taking vitamin E?
Topical vitamin E can irritate the skin.