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Vitamins for Mental Health, VitaminE - Information and benefits

Mental Health > supplements-vitamins : VitaminE

Vitamin E

Other names

Tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, d-alpha-tocopheryl succinate, dl-alpha-tocopherol


Vitamin E is a group of related compounds called tocopherols found in four forms: alpha-, beta-, delta and gamma- tocopherols. Alpha-tocopherol is the most common and most potent form. Vitamin E is fat soluble and is stored in fat tissue and muscle throughout the body. The highest concentrations are found in the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, and testes. Oral vitamin E is used for its antioxidant properties to protect against heart disease. It improves the circulation and helps to prevent blood clots. Vitamin E can protect the body against certain types of cancers, slow the aging process, and help prevent cataracts.

It is necessary for proper functioning of the immune system and can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Topically it can help with wound healing. In adults a vitamin E deficiency may be recognized by signs of premature aging, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, susceptibility to infections, poor wound healing, and general tiredness. Even thought it is a fat soluble vitamin and stored in the body, vitamin E is one of the safest vitamins and toxicity is rare. Foods sources of Vitamin E include the oils of seeds and nuts seeds (hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds) and wheat germ. It is also found in green leafy vegetables and whole grains. To benefit from the antioxidant properties of Vitamin E, 400-800 IU are required daily. This is best taken as d-alpha-tocopherol.


Oral vitamin E is used for its antioxidant effects to protect against heart disease. It helps to prevent heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. It is used for angina and to prevent blood clots. Vitamin E improves circulation and is used for intermittent claudication. Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin E may delay or prevent cataracts. It can slow the aging process and prevent premature aging. Vitamin E protects the body from cancer causing toxins such as nitrosasmines found in cured meats, cigarette smoke and polluted air. It can help prevent certain cancers, including prostate, breast and lung cancer.

It also protects healthy cells from the negative effects of chemotherapy without protecting the cancer cells. Vitamin E improves the function of the immune system and increases the body's resistance to disease. It has been found to be useful in premenstrual syndrome and in reducing the number of hot flashes in menopausal women. It lessens fibrocystic breast disease. It also slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease. It has been found to be useful in other conditions including neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, tardive dyskinesia, immunosuppresssion disorders, macular degeneration, infertility, myopathy, epilepsy, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, liver disease, and periodontal disease.

Topically, vitamin E helps wounds to heal and decreases the formation of scars.

Proposed Mechanism of Action

Vitamin E acts primarily as an antioxidant. It can prevent the accumulation of free radicals and decrease lipid peroxidation. It inhibits platelet aggregation and large amounts interfere with vitamin K dependent clotting factors. Vitamin E improves T-cell mediated immunity.

Side Effects / Precautions

Although Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the body, side effects are not often seen. Oral doses can but rarely cause nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, intestinal cramaping, and blurred vision. When applied to the skin, contact dermatitis has occurred.


Mineral oil, when taken with vitamin E, can decrease its absorption. Cholestyramine may also decrease absorption. Vitamin E may augment the anticoagulant activity of coumadin.
Vitamin E protects vitamins C and A from oxidation. Large doses, however, can interfere with the absorption of vitamin A. Vitamin E is more effective when it is taken together with vitamin C since vitamin C can help restore vitamin E to its normal antioxidative state.
Vitamin E helps the body use selenium and vitamin K. Large doses, however, can interfere with the manufacturing of vitamin K-dependent clotting factors.

Symptoms of Deficiency

Vitamin E is plentiful in the diet and deficiencies are rare. Body stores are usually enough to meet the body's requirements for up to four years. A vitamin E deficiency is difficult to diagnose because it does not produce a specific disease. In adults a deficiency is marked by premature aging, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, and a shortened life of red blood cells. Other signs of deficiency include susceptibility to infections, poor wound healing, and fatigue. A vitamin E deficiency is more likely in premature infants with signs including irritability, edema and hemolytic anemia. Neurological damage with a loss of deep tendon reflexes can also be seen. In severe cases, it can lead to blindness.

Symptoms of Toxicity

Vitamin E is considered to be one of the safest vitamins. No toxicity has been reported with doses as high as 3,200 IU per day. Some people with high blood pressure may experience an increase in their blood pressure if they start out taking large doses. This can be prevented by starting with lower doses of vitamin E and slowly increasing the daily intake. Minor side effects include headache, diarrhea, flatulence, and heart palpitations. All are reversible if the dose is decreased.
D-alpha-tocopherol is found in nature and considered safe to take. Effects of long term use of the l isomer are unknown.

Dosage and Administration

Only 8 mg a day for women and 10 mg for men (12 and 15 IU) are needed to prevent a frank vitamin E deficiency. Higher doses, 400-800 IU per day are necessary for the antioxidant properties. A gelcap containing d-alpha-tocopherol is more effective than the synthetic l-isomer and is best taken with a meal. The mixed tocopherols are even better and more efficiently absorbed and used by the body. They are, however, more expensive.

Vitamin E is found mostly in fatty foods and it is difficult to get antioxidant doses if one is eating a low fat diet. It is therefore necessary to take a supplement.
If you have high blood pressure and are starting vitamin E, start with low doses and increase it slowly to prevent a temporary increase in the blood pressure.

Food Sources

The highest amounts of vitamin E are found in plant foods, especially the oils of seeds and nuts seeds (hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds). Wheat germ is an exceptionally good source with 2 tablespoonfuls containing 54 IU. Vitamin E is also found in green leafy vegetables and whole grains.
Cooking and processing food will lower the amount of vitamin E in foods.

Other Supplements to Consider

Vitamin K
Vitamin C

Mental Health > supplements-vitamins: VitaminE