Vitamin E is made up of 8 closely related chemicals with the most important being alpha-tocopherol, which makes up about 90% of the vitamin. Vitamin E is particularly useful in keeping cell membranes in a healthy state and so is important for the health of skin and eyes. Vitamin E is also a natural antioxidant which has protective effects on the immune system.
Vitamin E is required for the lining of blood vessels, protecting the heart and the eyes. It also helps to keep the skin, hair and eyes healthy. This is because vitamin E is an antioxidant which prevents reactive oxygen species or free radicals from being produced when fat is oxidised. Free radicals damage cells and can lead to the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease. When free radicals join with oxygen, they produce reactive oxygen species which damage cells.
The body naturally produces reactive oxygen species when we eat but antioxidants like vitamin E are thought to protect against their damaging effects. As well as, food other environmental exposures to free radicals include:
Vitamin E deficiency is rare and symptoms have not been identified in people who are otherwise healthy. The digestive tract requires fat to absorb vitamin E, so people who have fat-malabsorption disorders are more likely to be vitamin E deficient.
Inherited disorders such as abetalipoproteinemia – a disorder which causes poor absorption of dietary fat – may be vitamin E deficient. It can cause symptoms like muscle weakness, degeneration of the retina causing blindness and nerve problems.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare and toxicity is generally caused by over-supplementation. Some research warns against daily doses of vitamin E supplements as too much can have adverse health effects.
Many foods naturally contain vitamin E, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts), seeds (sunflower), and vegetable oils (wheat germ, safflower, corn and soybean) are the best sources. Other foods containing vitamin E, include:
Exercise increases the production of oxygen free radicals. However, the rate of oxygen consumption and cellular antioxidant systems like vitamin E can influence the damage caused by free radicals. Therefore, it is essential that your vitamin E intake is adequate, particularly when exercising.
 The Open University. Vitamin E. Nutrition: Vitamins and Minerals. The Open University.
 National Institutes of Health. (2018). Vitamin E. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
 Gould, P. (2004). Excess Vitamin E May Harm Health. Nature: Available at: https://www.nature.com/news/2004/041108/full/news041108-9.html
 Evans, W, J. (2000). Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and Exercise. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 72(2), pp 647S-652S.