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Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

E (Vitamin E)


Vitamin E occurs as eight compounds in nature: alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherol and tocotrienols. On supplement labels vitamin E refers to "d-alpha tocopherol/tocotrienol." equivalent. The synthetic form of vitamin E is "dl-alpha tocopherol" and is a less active form. Vitamin E is measured in mg and i.u. where:
1 mg = 1.49 i.u.


Commercial food processing reduces the vitamin E content of foods as does freezing and deep-frying. Solvent extraction of vegetable oils also destroys vitamin E.

N.B. Acetate and succinate are more stable forms of vitamin E often used in supplement manufacture.


Vitamin E is a very important antioxidant. Its properties are vital in the membranes of tissues which have a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), such as in the brain, nervous system and lungs.

Vitamin E helps protect PUFAs and other fatty substances such as cholesterol from oxidation caused by free radicals, the highly reactive by-products of metabolism which also arise from environmental sources.

As an antioxidant nutrient, vitamin E helps to prevent conversion of nitrites in smoked, pickled and cured foods to nitrosamines (possible carcinogens) in the stomach. As an antioxidant, vitamin E works closely with Vitamin C.

Vitamin E has a very powerful antioxidant effect in the body - protecting the lipids in cell walls particularly. Lipids are particularly susceptible to oxidation by free radicals (highly reactive by-products of metabolism also arising from environmental sources).

In its capacity as an antioxidant, vitamin E can act to reduce the oxygen requirement of muscles and thereby increase exercise capacity. It also helps healing and is protective against Atherosclerosis and thrombosis.

Vitamin E also has an important neurological role and prevents degeneration of the nerves and muscles.
Vitamin E may also play an important role in stimulating the immune response (1).


Deficiency of vitamin E does not lead to any specific disease in the short term, but chronic insufficiency of vitamin E is thought to be a contributory factor in cancer and heart disease.

In children, fat malabsorption can lead to a deficiency of vitamin E characterised by abnormal red blood cell development.


Upper safe level for daily supplementation = 800mg (1200i.u.)

Recommended Daily Allowance = 10mg


Vitamin E supplements are advised in individuals who have fat malabsorption problems.

To date, these are some of the conditions that vitamin E supplements may help prevent:

  • Heart conditions (2)
  • Circulatory disorders(3)
  • Fibrocystic breast disease (4)
  • Blood platelet aggregation (e.g. in susceptible women on the contraceptive pill) (5)
  • Vitamin E requirement increases when the intake of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) increases.
  • Extra vitamin E has benefited smokers. Free radical damage in the lungs increases the requirement for this vitamin.

Vitamin E may also be used as a nutritional therapy in the following conditions:

Coronary Heart Disease:
Recent studies indicate that supplementation with 400-800i.u. of vitamin E can reduce the incidents of non-fatal heart attacks by preventing lipid oxidation, thereby modifying the size of the coronary atherosclerotic plaque (9).

Parkinsonís Disease:
Studies suggest that high intakes of vitamin E may slow down the progression of Parkinsonís disease and reduce the severity of other neurological disorders (1).


Levels over about 800mg vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) have occasionally been associated with such symptoms as Fatigue, nausea, mild gastrointestinal problems, palpitations and transient blood pressure increase. Such symptoms are reversible.


Interactions have been reported between vitamin E and a range of drugs, and anyone taking medication should consult their general practitioner before using vitamin E supplements.

Anti-coagulant Drugs:
Vitamin E supplements should only be taken under medical supervision by people taking anticoagulant drugs such as aspririn, since bith have a blood thinning effect and there are reports that the combination has resulted in increased bleeding.

Diabetes and Hypothyroidism:
High levels of vitamin E are best avoided by those suffering from these conditions.

Vitamin E activity is increased by Selenium and vice versa.
This is known as a synergistic action.


Food (mg/100g)
Wheatgerm oil 178
Safflower oil 97
Sunflower seeds, raw 74
Sunflower oil 73
Almonds 37
Mayonnaise 19
Wheatgerm 17
Margarine, hard 16
Peanut butter 9
Soybean oil 8
Butter 3
Asparagus 2.7
Spinach 2.7
Broccoli 0.7
Bananas 0.3
Strawberries 0.3


1. "Human Nutrition and Dietetics", J S Garrow & W P T James, Churchill Livingstone, 1996.
2. Kwiterovich PO Jr. The effect of dietary fat, Antioxidants, and pro-oxidants on blood lipids, lipoproteins, and Atherosclerosis. J Am Diet Assoc, 97;7 suppl:S31-41, 1997.
3. "Martindale The Extra Pharmacopoeia", J Reynolds, The Pharmaceutical Press, 29th Ed, 1989.
4. London RS et al. Endocrine parameters and alpha-tocopherol therapy of patients with mammary dysplasia. Caner Res, 41:3811-3813, 1981.
5. Renaud S et al. Influence of vitamin E administration on platelet functions in hormonal contraceptive users. Contraception, 36:347-358, 1987.
6. London RS et al. Efficacy of alpha-tocopherol in the treatment of the premenstrual syndrome. J Reprod Med, 32;6:400-404, 1987.
7. Int J Dermatol, 1995,34;7:506-509.
8. Sano et al. A controlled clinical trial of Selegiline, Alpha-tocopherol or both as treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. New England J Med, 336;17:1216-1222, 1997.
9. Stephens NG et al. Randomised controlled trial of vitamin E in patients with coronary disease: Cambridge Heart Antioxidant and Study (CHAOS). The Lancet, 347;9004:781-786, 1996.