Vitamin E has made a name for itself as the beauty vitamin. Extraordinarily popular as both a supplement and oil, Vitamin E has been gaining speed in the beauty industry as a way to help keep skin supple. However, did you know it has uses far beyond that and you can actually get enough Vitamin E without supplements at all if you choose?
What Is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, best absorbed by your body when ingested in conjunction with at least a small amount of fat. Vitamin E is actually also a group of 8 different compounds that make up the Vitamin E complex one would find in nature. These compounds fall under two main categories called tocopherols and tocotrienols.
This group of vitamins plays a number of different roles within the human body, not least providing antioxidant protection against the cellular damage caused by free radicals and other environmental toxins.
Types of Vitamin E
There are two primary classes of Vitamin E, referred to as tocotrienols and the aforementioned tocopherols.
Within these two classes of Vitamin E there are five subdivisions which are identified as alpha- (α-), beta- (β-), gamma- (γ-), delta- (δ-), and epsilon (ε-).
The most common forms of Vitamin E found in dietary sources are α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol, with the former being the most biologically active within the human body.
It is also worth noting at this point that the vast majority of scientific research that has been conducted on Vitamin E has focused predominantly on tocopherols; due to the lack of data available on tocotrienols this FAQ will primarily be focusing on tocopherol or variants.
What Is Its Biological Role?
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it is one of the vitamins that work in the body to fight free radicals. Interestingly, Vitamin E specifically is pointed to as an antioxidant that helps prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and releasing free radicals in the first place.
Just as other antioxidants, Vitamin E helps to slow cell degeneration and naturally reduce signs of aging as a by-product of fighting free radicals. In particular it also helps strengthen the capillaries close to your skin’s surface, which helps your skin cells stay strong and retain elasticity.
Elasticity in the skin is the property that allows it remain wrinkle-free. It is also known, whether ingested or applied topically, to improve the strength and texture of your hair.
What Foods Contain Vitamin E?
Luckily, Vitamin E is readily found in nature. Foods like eggs, nuts, wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, and certain vegetables all contain sufficient amounts of Vitamin E such that including them in your diet will almost guarantee you meet your RDA.
One food that contains the most Vitamin E is sunflower seeds–if you make these your afternoon snack you can easily get 20mg of Vitamin E, which is actually slightly higher than the RDA for this vitamin.
The richest sources of Vitamin E include food such as:
- Wheat germ oil;
- Sweet potato;
- Sunflower, safflower, and Palm oils;
- Nuts, especially almonds and hazelnuts; and
There are also plenty of other food sources of Vitamin E such as avocados, broccoli, kiwifruit, asparagus, and mangoes; however, these items are generally considered to be negligible sources of Vitamin E.
In terms of what the “best” sources of Vitamin E are, that is really going to depend on factors such as your budget, regional availability of foods, and of course your personal dietary preferences.
For example, if an item such as wheat germ oil is not available to you at an affordable price then there is absolutely nothing wrong with resorting to slightly less rich sources of Vitamin E such as nuts or sunflower oil.
Generally speaking, red and orange fruits and vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, and pumpkin will always contain some amount of tocopherol, which is where their color comes from.
Benefits of Vitamin E
The antioxidant functions of Vitamin E work primarily by scavenging free radicals in the body, converting them into tocopherol radicals which are subsequently reduced by means of a hydrogen donor such as Vitamin C. This helps to prevent a proliferation of harmful free radicals.
Another aspect of the antioxidant function of Vitamin E is that it can help to ward off the oxidization of unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Gene expression is another area where Vitamin E comes into play, helping in the repair of wounded tissue as a result of atherosclerosis.
For those of you who are unaware, atherosclerosis is a term used to describe a condition where arteries can become clogged with fatty substances. This is usually a result of excessive levels of cholesterol due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
Who Can Benefit from Taking Vitamin E?
There do not appear to be any benefits offered by Vitamin E that are specific to the fields of bodybuilding or athleticism in general; however, it does appear to be a worthwhile nutrient to include in one’s diet for the maintenance of ongoing health and well-being in general.
If it does turn out that your blood cholesterol levels are particularly unfavorable then it may well be worth speaking to your doctor about adding a Vitamins D supplement to your existing regimen.
The important thing to consider with a nutrient such as Vitamin E is that the majority of multivitamin supplements will contain some amount, not to mention the tocopherol content of some of the food sources that will be exploring in a moment.
With this in mind you may wish to consider simply investing in a multivitamin supplement rather than a standalone Vitamin E supplement.
How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?
It is not uncommon for bodybuilders to use tanning beds as a tool to help them achieve their desired look. While tanning beds can help give that golden glow, they can also be severely drying and damaging to the skin, causing premature signs of aging.
Since Vitamin E in particular is an antioxidant known to greatly benefit the skin’s elasticity and moisture levels, it is possible that utilizing a higher Vitamin E consumption may fight against these unwanted side effects of tanning.
Also, any fitness enthusiast who wants to bulk up may end up increasing their meat consumption. Certain types of meat, red meat in particular, contain lots of omega-6’s. Omega 6’s are a type of fat that can contribute to inflammation in the body.
When you consume a high amount of omega-6’s, your body in turn demands higher dosages of Vitamin E to help counteract the inflammation. If this sounds like you, adding more Vitamin E to your diet may be just what the doctor ordered.
How Much Vitamin E Do You Need?
The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E  for individuals aged 14 and older is 15mg per day. In women who are breastfeeding, this amount is increased to 19mg.
This is because infants who are receiving nutrition solely from mother’s milk are more likely to receive an adequate amount of most vitamins if the mother is taking more than normal;when the mother’s body has “extra” to spare, it finds its way into the milk which make for a stronger baby as well.
Does Vitamin E Have any Side Effects?
According to the National Institutes of Health, a consistent daily intake of Vitamin E exceeding 1000 mg or 1500 IU can lead to a condition known as hypervitaminosis E, which can cause a subsequent deficiency of Vitamin K.
In high levels such as this, Vitamin E can act as an anticoagulant, causing bleeding and preventing the formation of blood platelets and the healing of wounds.
While there are some potential health benefits to be gained from supplementing with vitamin E it is important that you do not take it lightly and instead exercise caution by starting with a low dose and not using it consistently on a long-term basis.
As with any dietary supplement, we recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consult their doctor or physician prior to use. This also applies to people under the age of 18 and individuals who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions or who are taking any kind of prescription medication.
Are there Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?
Vitamin E toxicity is very rare, and generally would only be achieved by very aggressive supplementation. The only known side effect is that of an anticoagulant; that is to say, it thins your bloods.
This can be dangerous for anyone, but in any individuals who take aspirin or other blood thinners like warfarin or blood pressure medication, it can greatly increase your risk for hemorrhagic stroke.
Are there Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?
Vitamin E deficiency is recognized as so rare in humans that it is virtually nonexistent. Typically, if an individual has a Vitamin E deficiency it is because they have a gastrointestinal disorder that causes fat malabsorption which brings along its own host of symptoms. Outside of this case, it is virtually impossible to become Vitamin E deficient.
Note: We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
Taking Vitamin E Supplements
There has been a fairly significant body of research conducted on the potential health benefits of supplementing with Vitamin E.
Unfortunately the research that has been published so far suggests little, if any benefit to otherwise healthy adults.
Vitamin E has been studied in the context of everything from prostate enlargement to macular degeneration, diabetes, and even overall mortality in adults.
Subsequent data from this research suggests that Vitamin E does nothing to prevent or reduce any of these factors, and in some cases may actually increase risks if taken at high doses.
With this said, it is probably advisable that you simply resort to using a multivitamin supplement to ensure that you do not exceed the tolerable upper limit of Vitamin E. This will also be a far more cost-effective way of sourcing your vitamins rather than purchasing them as stand-alone supplements.
Either way, ensure that you always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines provided on the packaging of any supplement you purchase.
Do I Really Need to Take Vitamin E?
Vitamin E isn’t particularly difficult to source in adequate quantities through dietary sources, and the vast majority of bodybuilders and athletes are already eating copious amounts of healthy foods such as sweet potatoes and nuts anyway. So you’re probably already consuming plenty of Vitamin E.
A multivitamin supplement is almost definitely going to be the best route to take if you would like to add more Vitamin E to your diet.
It is also worth bearing in mind that most of us do not have unlimited resources when it comes to budgeting for supplements.
Choosing the Right Vitamin E Supplement
With everything that has been discussed so far you should have a general idea of whether or not Vitamin E supplementation is relevant to your personal needs.
It appears as if the best way to source your Vitamin E is through dietary sources such as nuts, and vegetables such as sweet potato and pumpkin.
If you do really want to add a supplemental source of Vitamin E to your diet then it is probably most advisable for you to do so by means of a multivitamin, in which case you should be sure to take a look at our Top 10 men’s and women’s multivitamin supplement rankings.
1. Puritan’s Pride Vitamin E-1000
2. Nature Made Vitamin E 400
3. Solgar Vitamin E 400
4. Now Foods E-400
5. Nature’s Bounty Natural E-complex
6. Spring Valley Vitamin E 400
7. Sundown Naturals Vitamin E 400
8. Swanson Vitamin E
9. Garden of Life Vegetarian Vitamin E
10. Pure Encapsulations – Vitamin E
Supplements for Vitamin E are rarely needed, and some studies show that consuming your Vitamin E through supplements rather than through wholesome foods that naturally contain it might not be the best solution. In fact, in men who consistently supplemented with high dosages of Vitamin E, there was also a higher rate of prostate cancer.
The studies that were done are not extensive enough to provide conclusive evidence just yet, but for the time being one may want to stick with veggies over gel-caps!
 Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Vitamin E- Consumer Fact Sheet. Us Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.
 WebMD. Vitamin E. Webmd.com, 2015.
 The Mayo Clinic. Vitamin E Dosing. Mayoclinic.org, 2013.