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Vitamin E

Research has shown that vitamin E helps the body ward off many diseases, and it protects cells from certain kinds of damage, which helps them live longer. The effect of this protection over time is that vitamin E helps slow down the cell damage that happens naturally as we age.


Vitamin E protects the body against some disorders and helps treat others.

This is a partial list of these disorders.


bulletCancer. Vitamin E plays an important role in cancer treatment, including cancers of the skin, mouth and throat, stomach, colon, breast, and prostate gland. It may also reduce the risk of cancers of the lung, esophagus, and cervix. Vitamin E seems to interfere with the oxygen-controlled signals that make cancer cells grow. It also protects normal cells from the damaging effects of chemotherapy, but leaves cancer cells vulnerable.
bulletHeart attacks and strokes. Research suggests that vitamin E helps prevent arteries from clogging by blocking the conversion of cholesterol into its most dangerous form. Vitamin E is also a powerful anti-clotting agent, which helps blood flow more easily through arteries when fatty plaques (fat deposits that stick to blood vessel walls) are present.
bulletImmune system disorders. These disorders lower the body's defenses against illness, but vitamin E can bring your level of immunity up again.
bulletAging-related diseases. Vitamin E can prevent the progress of these diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, which can cause physical and mental decline.
bulletCataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin E can counteract these conditions, which affect your eyesight and can lead to blindness.
bulletDiabetes. Vitamin E can help reduce the risk of heart disease in people with diabetes.


Vitamin E also helps in other ways.


bulletSlows the aging of all cells and tissues
bulletProtects against environmental pollutants
bulletKeeps red blood cells healthy and helps prevent anemia
bulletTreats disorders related to trouble digesting fats
bulletServes in the treatment of most skin diseases
bulletHelps wounds heal faster
bulletPromotes the treatment of reproductive disorders
bulletReduces premenstrual discomforts
bulletDecreases symptoms of lupus


Dietary Sources

Foods that contain a significant amount of vitamin E include: nuts (including almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts) as well as sunflower seeds, corn-oil margarine, mayonnaise, cold-pressed vegetable oils, including corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, canola, and wheat germ (the richest one), spinach and kale, sweet potatoes, and yams.

Other Forms

You can choose between natural and synthetic forms of vitamin E. Health care providers usually recommend natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol). The synthetic form is called dl-alpha-tocopherol.

Vitamin E comes as softgels, tablets and capsules. You will find them in doses that include 50 IU, 100 IU, 200 IU, 400 IU, 500 IU, 600 IU, and 1,000 IU.

For people who have trouble digesting fats, vitamin E succinate ("dry-E") is best.

How to Take It

For the prevention and treatment of disease, adults should take between 200 IU and 400 IU of vitamin E daily with water, preferably after eating.

As with all medicines and supplements, check with a health care provider before giving vitamin E supplements to a child.


Vitamin E is generally nontoxic. In high doses (more than 1,200 IU daily) it can cause nausea, gas, diarrhea, and heart palpitations.

Check with your health care provider before taking vitamin E under the following conditions.


bulletIf you have high blood pressure
bulletIf you are taking blood-thinners such as coumadin or warfarin


Possible Interactions

Taking vitamin E at the same time as warfarin, a blood-thinning medication, increases the risk of abnormal bleeding.

A class of cholesterol-lowering medications called bile-acid sequestrants (such as colestipol and cholestyramine) diminishes the absorption of vitamin E.

Vitamin E interacts with cyclosporine, a medication used for the treatment of cancer, reducing the effectiveness of both this supplement and this medication.

Supporting Research

Adhirai M, Selvam R. Effect of cyclosporin on liver antioxidants and the protective role of vitamin E in hyperoxaluria in rats. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1998;50(5):501-505.

Balch J, Balch, P. Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A-to-Z Guide to Supplements. New York, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1998.

Chan AC. Vitamin E and atheroschlerosis. J Nutr. 1998;128:(10):15931596.

Chinery R, Brockman JA, Peeler MO, Shyr Y, Beauchamp RD, Coffey RJ. Antioxidants enhance the cytotoxicity of chemotherapeutic agents in colorectal cancer: a p53-independent induction of p21WAF1/C1P1 via C/EBP beta [see comments]. Nat Med. 1997;3(11):1233-1241.

Feltman J. Prevention's Food & Nutrition. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1993.

Klatz R. Vitamin E. Total Health. Sept/Oct 97: 28.

Leske MC, Chylack Jr LT, He Q, et al. Antioxidant vitamins and nuclear opacities: the longitudinal study of cataract. Ophthalmology. 1998;105:831836.

Lieberman S, Bruning N. The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1997.

Liebman B. Vitamin E and Fat. Nutrition Action Healthletter. Jul/Aug 96:10

Mahan K, Arlin M, eds. Krause's Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Company; 1992.

Meydani SN, Meydani M, Blumberg JB, et al. Assessment of the safety of supplementation with different amounts of vitamin E in healthy older adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68:311318.

Meydani SN, Meydani M, Blumberg JB, et al. Vitamin E supplementation and in vivo immune response in healthy elderly subjects. A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1997;277:13801386.

Nursing 93 Drug Handbook. Springhouse, Pa: Springhouse Corporation; 1993.

Pronsky Z. Food-Medication Interactions. 9th ed. Pottstown, Pa: 1995.

Van Rensburg CE, Joone G, Anderson R. Alpha-tocopherol antagonizes the multidrug-resistance-reversal activity of cyclosporin A, verapamil, GF 120918, clofazimine and B669. Cancer Letter. 1998;127(1-2):107-112.

Whitney E, Cataldo C, Rolfes S. Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. St. Paul, Minn: West Publishing Co; 1987.

Copyright 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

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