Vitamin E in retreat
The Wellness Letter has tracked vitamin E for many years. About 15 years ago we started recommending E supplements (400 IU a day) because the findings about the potential benefits seemed plausible and exciting. But in 2001, after more research appeared and disappointment set in, we halved our suggested amount to 200 IU. Then, in 2005 we stopped recommending E altogether. When hundreds of studies fail to find a benefit, and so many contradictions emerge, you have to be skeptical.
Bottom line: Get your vitamin E from food, not supplements. The supplements have not proved beneficial, and may even be risky. We stick by our advice that most people can benefit from a basic multivitamin/mineral supplement, which usually supplies the RDA for vitamin E.
Vitamin E exists naturally in eight forms (four tocopherols and four tocotrienols), of which alpha-tocopherol is probably the most important and the most often studied.
It acts as an antioxidant that is, it helps neutralize free radicals (oxygen molecules that can harm cells and may contribute to chronic diseases).
It is fat-soluble and can thus be stored in the body.
It is measured in milligrams or International Units (IU); the latter are used on supplement labels. The daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 15 milligrams (about 23 IU).
Deficiency in E is unknown, except in people with rare genetic disorders or malnutrition, or in preterm infants.
Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, whole grains, and leafy greens supply the most vitamin E. Broccoli, tomato sauce, red peppers, carrots, and some fish are also good sources.