There are a number of vitamin E benefits you can enjoy, however it’s unclear whether or not supplementing with vitamin E will produce them. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin made up of eight compounds, of which alpha-tocopherol is the most active in humans.
But what is vitamin E good for, really? The truth is a little murky when it comes to vitamin E’s health benefits.
Natural vitamin E has antioxidant capabilities that can help protect your cells from damage, which makes it potentially useful in a number of areas. Antioxidants may help defend cells against free radicals, which can wear down the body internally and externally.
This is why some suggest, for example, that vitamin E is good for hair growth; it purportedly fixes broken hair, provides shine, and protects hair from the effects of aging. Others suggest that vitamin E is good for scars, for similar reasons.
While it’s clear that this vitamin is essential to health, it doesn’t appear that supplementing with vitamin E provides any benefit to those without a diagnosed deficiency—and a vitamin E deficiency is actually quite rare. So if you’re asking yourself “how much vitamin E should I take,” the answer might, in fact, be: none. In fact, too much vitamin E can cause problems.
What Does Vitamin E Do?
The minimal evidence supporting supplemental vitamin E uses doesn’t stop marketing companies from telling you about all the magic things it can do. And there may be some truth to some of it, e.g., hair and eye strength, but if you’re getting enough vitamin E in your diet then you’re likely already getting all of those benefits. Vitamin E’s health benefits are more pronounced for certain conditions that may cause deficiencies, and that would be determined by your doctor. Vitamin E may be effective in treating:
- Burns, scars, acne and damaged skin (as a topical cream)
- Damaged hair (as a shampoo; it may also promote healthy hair growth)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bladder cancer
- Chemotherapy-related nerve damage
- Painful menstruation
- Early-stage Huntington’s disease
- Male infertility
- Liver disease (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis)
- Parkinson’s disease (it may lower the risk)
- Rheumatoid arthritis, and
This is the number-one reason most people are interested in vitamin E. Antioxidants can protect the integrity of your cells so that they stand up to the stress of free radicals. Because of this, vitamin E might be effective in protecting against certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and many other conditions resulting from, or enhanced by, chronic inflammation. But at this point the evidence is insufficient to suggest that vitamin E tocopherols are effective in these areas.
Vitamin E for Scars
Vitamin E, as a topical cream, might help scars, abrasions, and skin wounds. It does seem, however, that results vary between studies on its effectiveness as a topical rub. Vitamin E oils may be used in this manner, but it’s quite possible they won’t yield any results. So the question, “What is vitamin E oil good for,” is, at this point, still largely undetermined.
Vitamin E Dosage: How Much Vitamin E per Day?
Dosing is very important when it comes to vitamin E, as high doses can be quite dangerous in certain populations. If you’ve got a healthy, balanced diet or take a multivitamin, you probably don’t require any extra vitamin E supplementation. That said, if you have: a vitamin E deficiency; digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel disease, or cystic fibrosis; or are on a very low-fat diet, the risk for deficiencies increases.
Because vitamin E is stored in fat cells, long-term high dosages can cause health risks. In adults, daily intake of 400 IU per day or more can lead to side effects, while taking 1,360 IU per day can lead to toxicity. These side effects will creep up after extended use at this level—a level which can only be reached through taking vitamin E supplements. Vitamin E can be obtained naturally through a variety of easily accessible foods.
Natural Vitamin E Foods
Natural vitamin E is typically found in foods that feature fats. Nuts, oils, and fish are the best vitamin E foods, but it can also be obtained—albeit in much smaller amounts—from leafy greens. Here are some good places to find natural vitamin E:
|Vitamin E Content
|Roasted sunflower seeds
|Wheat germ oil
|Canned tomato sauce
|Cooked Swiss chard
|White tuna, canned in oil
Vitamin E Side Effects
Side effects from vitamin E are usually only experienced by those taking high doses, or those with existing health conditions. And these side effects are always a result of taking too many vitamin E supplements as opposed to getting it from natural sources. Long-term usage of vitamin E supplements in large amounts (400 IU to 1,360 IU per day) has been linked with:
- Skin irritation
- Bleeding, and
- Stroke risk
One large-scale analysis of clinical trials found that people who took 400 IU or more per day had a greater risk of death than those who did not. The results were linear, meaning risk increased as consumption did.
One study noted that long-term use of vitamin E supplements (over 10 years) was linked to an increased risk of stroke.
There are studies indicating that people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes may experience an increased risk of heart failure if they take 400 IU of vitamin E per day.
Prostate Cancer Risk
A large population study indicated that vitamin E supplementation in men who were taking a multivitamin plus an additional vitamin E supplement had a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer. This means that the answer to the question, “What is vitamin E good for in men,” is not “nothing,” but getting too much it via supplementation could seriously increase health risks.
So What Is Vitamin E Good For?
Vitamin E is good for lots of things and your body needs it to operate efficiently. The real question comes down to how much of it you need and where you should get it. Is vitamin E good for hair growth? In a way, yes. Is vitamin E good for skin and scars? Same answer.
What else is vitamin E good for? It’s hard to say, as the evidence is, for the moment, inconclusive. It does seem that additional, non-dietary vitamin E (that is, in supplement form) may not provide any extra benefits when compared to those derived from nutrition. So at the very least, if you’re looking for a way to save some money, cutting out your vitamin E supplements might be a good place to start.