Overview

Vitamin E is a nutrient that's important to vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin.

Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that might protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals might play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. If you take vitamin E for its antioxidant properties, keep in mind that the supplement might not offer the same benefits as naturally occurring antioxidants in food.

Foods rich in vitamin E include canola oil, olive oil, margarine, almonds and peanuts. You can also get vitamin E from meats, dairy, leafy greens and fortified cereals. Vitamin E is also available as an oral supplement in capsules or drops.

Vitamin E deficiency can cause nerve pain (neuropathy).

The recommended daily amount of vitamin E for adults is 15 milligrams a day.

Evidence

Research on vitamin E use for specific conditions shows:

  • Alzheimer's disease. Some research has shown that high-dose vitamin E might delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease in people who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Other studies haven't shown this benefit. Vitamin E supplements appear to have no effect on whether people with mild cognitive impairment progress to Alzheimer's disease.
  • Liver disease. Studies show that vitamin E might improve symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. However, some evidence suggests that taking oral vitamin E for this purpose for two years is linked to insulin resistance.
  • Preeclampsia. Increasing your intake of vitamin E hasn't been shown to prevent this pregnancy condition that affects blood pressure.
  • Prostate cancer. Research shows that vitamin E and selenium supplements don't prevent prostate cancer. There is also concern that use of vitamin E supplements might increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Our take

Yellow light: Caution

Caution

Most people get enough vitamin E from a balanced diet. If you've been diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, some research suggests that vitamin E therapy might help slow disease progression.

However, oral use of vitamin E might increase the risk of prostate cancer. Use of the supplement can pose other serious risks, particularly at high doses and if you have other health conditions or have had a heart attack or stroke.

Oct. 18, 2017