Vitamin E Deficiency and Excess

Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol or alpha-tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin. It participates in many body processes and highlights its antioxidant function, which protects cells against free radicals, stimulates the immune system and prevents the formation of blood clots.

Where is vitamin E found?

Vitamin E is present in many foods , so if you follow a varied and balanced diet, it is easy to meet your needs. It can be found in:

  • Vegetal oils , such as wheat germ, sunflower, corn, olive …
  • The nuts such as peanuts, hazelnuts and, especially almonds.
  • The seeds , like sunflower seeds.
  • The green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli.
  • Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals , fruit juices, margarines, and spreads. It must be indicated on the label.

How Much Vitamin E Do You Need Daily?

The amount of vitamin E you need daily depends on your age . They can be expressed in milligrams (mg) or in international units (IU). Babies up to six months need 4 milligrams (mg) (6IU) a day; babies 7 to 12 months, 5 mg (7.5 IU) a day; 1 to 3 years, 6 mg (9 IU) a day; 4 to 8 years, 7 mg (10.4 IU) per day; 9 to 13 years, 11 mg (16.4 IU) per day; ages 14 to 18, 15 mg (22.4 IU) a day. Adults need 15 mg (22.4 IU) a day. Pregnant women, 15 mg (22.4 IU) per day, and lactating women, 19 mg (28.4 IU) .

Vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin E deficiency is rare in healthy people, since a balanced diet covers the needs. It is related to certain diseases caused by malabsorption problems or fat digestion problems , since fats are necessary to absorb vitamin E. Diseases such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, liver diseases or rare genetic diseases. There may also be deficiencies if you follow a very low-fat diet.
Vitamin E deficiency can cause:

  • Damage to muscles and nerves with loss of sensation in arms and legs.
  • Loss of control of body movement.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Vision problems.
  • Weakened immune system

How is it diagnosed and what treatment does it have?

The diagnosis is made through a blood test . The suspicion of vitamin E deficiency occurs when some symptoms appear , if diets are very restrictive with fats, if there are malabsorption problems or diseases that may cause its deficiency, in premature babies (they have a greater risk of suffering from vitamin deficiency E that can cause serious complications). Treatment is administered orally

Vitamin E supplement and health, myth or reality?

There are many studies that investigate the vitamin E supplement with multiple pathologies due to its antioxidant characteristics and its relationship with the immune system.

  • Cardiovascular disease : Some studies suggest that higher consumption of vitamin E supplements is associated with a lower risk of heart disease , although extensive studies have not shown any benefit.
  • Cancer : Most studies indicate that taking a vitamin E supplement does not help prevent cancer, there are even studies that show that an intake of vitamin E supplements (400IU / day) for several years increased the risk of prostate cancer In contrast, another study showed a lower risk of death from bladder cancer. Further study is needed in this field for conclusive data. Dietary supplements of vitamin E and other antioxidants can interact with chemotherapy and radiation therapy , so you should always consult your oncologist before taking any type of supplements, even if they are antioxidants.
  • Eye disorders : The results of research studies on whether vitamin E can contribute to the prevention of macular degeneration or loss of frontal vision are contradictory. A supplement containing high concentrations of vitamin E, in combination with other antioxidants, zinc and copper, does appear to be effective among people with age-related macular degeneration who are at high risk of worsening later in life. It showed promising effects in delaying vision loss.
  • Mental function : so far, studies provide little scientific evidence that taking vitamin E supplements can benefit healthy people or those with mild problems in mental function would help them maintain brain health.

Excess vitamin E

Excess vitamin E is not very common and if consumed through food is not harmful. The problem usually comes from an excess of supplementation of this vitamin, and the effects can be:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Sickness.
  • Fatigue.

If the excess is really high, it can have very negative consequences for health , since it decreases the blood clotting capacity, increasing the risk of bleeding after a cut or wound and of cerebral hemorrhage (hemorrhagic stroke). Therefore, the limit for natural vitamin E supplements is 1,500 IU / day and 1,100 IU / day in its synthetic presentation (in adults). Some studies show that even with values lower than these, there is a health risk .
For all these reasons, taking vitamin E supplements without consulting a doctor is not recommended.
What you should know…

  • The vitamin E deficiency is rare in healthy people , because with a balanced diet needs are covered.
  • There are many studies that investigate the vitamin E supplement with multiple pathologies due to its antioxidant characteristics and its relationship with the immune system , although it should continue to be investigated.
  • Excess vitamin E is not very common and if consumed through food is not harmful. The problem usually comes from an excess of supplementation of this vitamin.

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