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Vitamin E: importance, daily requirement

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 247 views

The term vitamin E stands for a group of similar compounds called tocopherols. They have an antioxidant effect, which means: They defuse aggressive oxygen compounds (free radicals) before they can cause cell damage. Find out here how much vitamin E you need and which foods contain it.

What is vitamin E?

Like vitamins A, D and K, vitamin E is one of the fat-soluble vitamins. These can only be utilized as part of the fat metabolism, which means that the body can only absorb fat-soluble vitamins from food together with some fat .

There are different forms of vitamin E, which experts group together under the term tocopherols. The best-known representative of vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol.

What is the role of vitamin E in the body?

Vitamin E has an antioxidant effect. It defuses “free radicals”. These are aggressive oxygen compounds that are produced in the course of normal metabolic reactions in the body, but also by UV radiation and cigarette smoke, and can damage cells. This makes vitamin E an important cell protection vitamin.

In addition, vitamin E can weaken inflammatory reactions and prevent calcification of the arteries ( arteriosclerosis ).

Furthermore, vitamin E protects the memory and – in the right combination of its forms – influences the ability to remember. A vitamin E derivative is said to be able to eliminate cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.

However, the positive effect can also be reversed: in subjects with low selenium levels, regular intake of vitamin E pills increased the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Vitamin E: Skin and food protector

Since vitamin E is fat-soluble, it can easily penetrate the cornea in large quantities and be stored there. A high vitamin E content in the skin has many advantages: it smooths out wrinkles, increases the skin’s resistance, protects against UV rays, improves wound healing and inhibits inflammation. That is why many cosmetics manufacturers swear by the addition of tocopherols (vitamin E) in the production of skin and sun creams.

However, the vitamin not only has an effect on or in the skin, but also in the cosmetic products themselves: it protects the ingredients from spoilage through contact with oxygen. For the same reason, vitamin E is also added to foods such as edible fats and oils, shortenings and oils, dressings, desserts and chewing gum. In the list of ingredients it is marked with the E numbers E 306 to 309.

What is the daily requirement of vitamin E?

How much vitamin E someone needs depends on their age and gender. But there are many other factors that influence the daily requirement of vitamin E. These include pregnancy, breastfeeding, environmental or psychological stress and illnesses.

According to the recommendation of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), this is how much vitamin E you should take in:

age Tocopherol mg/day
male Female
0 to under 4 months 3 3
4 to under 12 months 4 4
1 to under 4 years 6 5
4 to under 7 years 8th 8th
7 to under 10 years 10 9
10 to under 13 years 13 11
13 to under 15 years 14 12
15 to under 19 years 15 12
19 to under 25 years 15 12
25 to under 51 years 14 12
51 to under 65 years 13 12
65 years and older 12 11
pregnant women 13
breastfeeding 17

Vitamin E – foods with high content

Read more about foods rich in vitamin E in the post Foods High in Vitamin E.

How does a vitamin E deficiency manifest itself?

You can read about how a vitamin E deficiency can develop and what consequences it has in the article Vitamin E deficiency . 

How does a vitamin E excess manifest itself?

It is practically impossible to overdose on vitamin E through food. Such large amounts cannot be ingested through food.

However, if you take vitamin E preparations (e.g. tablets) over a longer period of time, side effects such as gastrointestinal problems ( diarrhoea , nausea) can occur. In addition, vitamin E can increase the risk of bleeding in combination with anticoagulant medication or in the event of a severe overdose. In addition, previous studies suggest that high vitamin E intake may reduce life expectancy.

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