Vitamin E • Daily requirement, effects & symptoms in case of deficiency

Vitamin E is an umbrella term for fat-soluble substances that have an antioxidant effect. For humans, vitamin E is an essential vitamin and must be taken in through food. As a cell protector, it ensures healthy skin. But what happens if there is an overdose or a lack of vitamin E?

It is highly praised in skin care: Vitamin E is said to protect against skin aging and is found in creams, care lotions and even lipsticks. But what exactly is vitamin E, how does it work and can the vital substance be overdosed?

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Vitamin E: foods high in content

What is vitamin E and how does it work in the body?

Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds that protect human cells from oxidation and cell damage. The most common compounds found in nature are grouped together as tocopherols and tocotrienols. The best known and most active substance is alpha tocopherol. In nature, only plants produce vitamin E – therefore there is a lot of tocopherol in plant foods and oils. Deficiency symptoms are rare, however, because the body can store significant amounts of vitamin E.

What is vitamin E good for?

Vitamin E is important to keep nerves, muscles and blood working properly. The vitamin has an antioxidant effect: it protects the body from oxidative stress by intercepting free radicals that attack proteins and cells in the body and thus damage the cell wall. Free radicals are molecules that are formed by the body itself during various metabolic processes or by harmful external influences such as UV radiation and cigarette consumption. Vitamin E is supported in its effectiveness by vitamin C.

Vitamin E protects the skin

Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin E is found in many skin care products and sun creams. Skin aging processes should be slowed down, the skin surface improved and the moisture content of the skin positively influenced, which has a positive effect on elasticity. In addition to the cosmetic benefit, it is also said to have a medicinal benefit. Vitamin E is said to inhibit inflammation and accelerate wound healing. It is also said to relieve itching and support scar healing.

Meeting vitamin requirements: How much vitamin E do you need per day?

The daily requirement for vitamin E is low and can easily be met with a balanced diet. According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the amount to be taken (in milligrams of tocopherol equivalent per day) is:

Alter men women
15 to 25 years 15 mg 12 mg
25 to 51 years 14 mg 12 mg
51 to 65 years 13 mg 12 mg
65 years and older 12 mg 11 mg

The need for tocopherol drops significantly in people aged 65 or older. Pregnant women (13 mg / day) and breastfeeding women (17 mg / day) have an increased vitamin E requirement. The last two groups also belong to the risk groups for an undersupply of vitamin E. A deficiency also often affects people with digestive and absorption disorders as well as adults who eat an above-average low-fat diet. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble substance and can therefore only be processed in connection with the fat metabolism.

Vitamin E Deficiency: Symptoms and How to Prevent

Vitamin E is stored in the liver as a large reserve, but can also be found in the adrenal glands, platelets, adipose tissue and muscles. If these reserves are used up and there is no replenishment, there is a vitamin E deficiency. A deficiency caused by food is relatively rare, however, as vitamin E is contained in many foods and is easily accessible.

In people with chronic small bowel disease, short bowel syndrome, chronic inflammation of the pancreas or biliary obstruction, a balanced diet may not be enough to meet the daily requirement. This is because vitamin E is metabolized in the body along with lipids (fats). If this fat digestion is disturbed, vitamin E can no longer be converted in the body and transported into the bloodstream. People who have been on a fat-free diet for a long time are also at risk.

Taking iron supplements at the same time can also reduce the effect of vitamin E.

Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency

If you are deficient in vitamin E, it can take one to two years for clear symptoms to manifest. Neurological symptoms are particularly common:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Neuropathy (disorders of deep sensitivity, impaired coordination, impaired reflexes, for example)
  • Inefficiency
  • Retinal damage in premature babies (retinopathy)
  • Gluten intolerance (celiac disease)

The diagnosis of a deficiency is made through a nutritional analysis and a blood test. The level of alpha tocopherol / per liter in the blood is measured here.

Nutrient deficiency: recognizing deficiency symptoms

Food: How much vitamin E is there where?

Although vitamin E is made exclusively by plants, it can also be found in foods of animal origin. For example, when the animals are given food with a lot of vitamin E. But even then, the proportion of tocopherol in foods of animal origin is extremely low.

The table shows foods that contain a lot of vitamin E (per 100 g):

Food Content per 100 g
fats and oils
Cornflour 25,7 mg
olive oil 11,9 mg
Safflower oil 44,5 mg
Grapeseed oil 28,8 mg
Rapeseed oil 18,9 mg
Sunflower oil 62,5 mg
Wheat germ oil 174,0 mg
Aal 8,0 mg
Catfish 3,2 mg
Seeds and nuts
peanuts 11,0 mg
Hazelnuts 26,0 mg
Almonds 26,0 mg
linseed 16,0 mg
Pine nuts 12,5 mg
Sunflower seeds 38,0 mg
Paprika 2,5-2,9 mg
Savoy cabbage, raw 2,5 mg
Black salsify, raw 6,0 mg
Spinach, raw 2,8 mg
sweet potato 4,5 mg
White cabbage, raw 1,7 mg

Vitamin E supplementation

A supply of vitamin E-containing food supplements is only necessary in rare cases. Nevertheless, vitamin E is one of the ten most common supplements in the form of capsules, oils or tablets according to the German Food Association. It is important to know that dietary supplements do not use the natural form of alpha tocopherol. The original shape can be better absorbed and processed by the body. The synthetic form, also called all-rac-alpha-tocopherol or DL-alpha-tocopherol, is only half as effective as the natural substance.

To prevent a deficiency, dietary supplements can be considered. But caution is advised when taking it, it should be discussed with a doctor.

Vitamin E overdose

Achieving an overdose (hypervitaminosis) of tocopherol by simply consuming food is practically impossible. Only if food supplements with vitamin E are taken unnecessarily over a longer period of time can it be harmful to health. Especially when medication is being taken at the same time. Symptoms of vitamin E overdose can include:

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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