Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol): Reference and Dietary Sources

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Abstract

In this article, we describe:

  • the major purposes of this specific nutrient in the human body, 
  • its experimentally confirmed health uses, 
  • conventional ways to estimate nutrient status,
  • nutrient’s toxicities and deficiencies,
  • experimentally confirmed and approved levels of the nutrient intake for different demographics,
  • dietary sources of the nutrient.

Introduction

“Vitamin E” is the collective name for a group of fat-soluble compounds with distinctive antioxidant activities.

Naturally occurring vitamin E exists in eight chemical forms, but alpha- (or α-) tocopherol is the only form that is recognized to meet human requirements. Serum concentrations of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) depend on the liver, which takes up the nutrient after the various forms are absorbed from the small intestine.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that stops the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) formed when fat undergoes oxidation. In addition to that, vitamin E is involved in immune function and metabolic processes.

Frank vitamin E deficiency is rare and overt deficiency symptoms have not been found in healthy people who obtain little vitamin E from their diets. Health benefits of alpha-tocoferol were reported for delaying and prevention of coronary heart disease, cancer, eye disorders, and cognitive decline. Research has not found any adverse effects from consuming vitamin E in food. However, high doses of alpha-tocopherol supplements can cause hemorrhage and interrupt blood coagulation in animals.

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Research has not found any adverse effects from consuming vitamin E in food. However, high doses of alpha-tocopherol supplements can cause hemorrhage and interrupt blood coagulation in animals, and in vitro data suggest that high doses inhibit platelet aggregation.

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Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol) 

AgeMalesFemalesPregnancyLactation
0–6 months*4 mg
(6 IU)
4 mg
(6 IU)
7–12 months*5 mg
(7.5 IU)
5 mg
(7.5 IU)
1–3 years6 mg
(9 IU)
6 mg
(9 IU)
4–8 years7 mg
(10.4 IU)
7 mg
(10.4 IU)
9–13 years11 mg
(16.4 IU)
11 mg
(16.4 IU)
14+ years15 mg
(22.4 IU)
15 mg
(22.4 IU)
15 mg
(22.4 IU)
19 mg
(28.4 IU)
  • Adequate Intake (AI). Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for Vitamin E is established as 1,000 mg (1,500 IU).
  • To convert from mg to IU:1 mg of alpha-tocopherol is equivalent to 1.49 IU of the natural form or 2.22 IU of the synthetic form.
  • To convert from IU to mg:1 IU of the natural form is equivalent to 0.67 mg of alpha-tocopherol.1 IU of the synthetic form is equivalent to 0.45 mg of alpha-tocopherol.

Food Sources of Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol)

Numerous foods provide vitamin E. Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are among the best sources of alpha-tocopherol, and significant amounts are available in green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. Mostly, it is obtained in the form of gamma-tocopherol from soybean, canola, corn, and other vegetable oils and food products.

Selected Food Sources of Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol) 

FoodMilligrams (mg)
per serving
Percent DV*
Wheat germ oil, 1 tablespoon20.3135
Dry roasted sunflower seeds, 1 ounce7.449
Dry roasted almonds, 1 ounce6.845
Sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon5.637
Safflower oil, 1 tablespoon4.631
Dry roasted hazelnuts, 1 ounce4.329
Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons2.919
Dry roasted peanuts, 1 ounce2.215
Corn oil, 1 tablespoon1.913
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup1.913
Broccoli, chopped, boiled, ½ cup1.28
Soybean oil, 1 tablespoon1.17
Kiwifruit, 1 medium1.17
Mango, sliced, ½ cup0.75
Tomato, raw, 1 medium0.75
Spinach, raw, 1 cup0.64
  • *DV = Daily Value.
  • The DV for vitamin E used for the values in the table above is 3is 15 mg for adults and children age 4 years and older. 1 mg vitamin E = 1 mg RRR-alpha-tocopherol = 2 mg all rac-alpha-tocopherol. 
  • Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.

References

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