What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble, antioxidant vitamin, also called alpha-tocopherol. Medically,vitamin E is used only for vitamin E deficiency. There are conditions that may increase your need for vitamin E, such as intestine disease, liver disease, pancreas disease, or surgical removal of your stomach. It has been proposed that vitamin E can help prevent and treat a number of health conditions, including certain types of cancer, but there is not enough evidence to prove this. You only need a small amount of vitamin E and you can get it through a balanced diet. Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, wheat germ, and other foods. It is also available as a supplement, but the supplement alone does not replace a balanced diet.

Elizabeth Casparro, MPH,RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble nutrient needed in small amounts that functions as an antioxidant (neutralizes free radicals, aka cell damaging particles in your body). There are many different forms of vitamin E, but the most significant is alpha-tocopherol. As an antioxidant, it protects cell membranes of DNA, lungs and other tissues. High food intake of vitamin E has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. The best food sources are plant sources such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and is sometimes referred to as a vitamin in need of a disease to cure. For almost 40 years after its discovery, scientists searched unsuccessfully for a curative role for vitamin E. They now have shifted their focus and begun valuing the vitamin’s importance as an effective antioxidant.

Vitamin E’s nutritional claim to fame is its role as a powerful antioxidant. This role is extremely important in protecting cell membranes and preventing oxidation of the “bad” LDL cholesterol carrier.

Phospholipids (lipids that contain phosphorus and two fatty acids) are critical components of cell membranes. Many phospholipids contain unsaturated fatty acids, which are vulnerable to the damaging effects of free radicals. As an antioxidant, vitamin E neutralizes free radicals before they can harm cell membranes.

Peanut butter and sunflower seed kernels are good sources of vitamin E.
Picture of peanuts & sunflower seeds

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.