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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


EFSA Confirms Nutritional Importance of α-Tocopherol (Vitamin E)

By Michael McBurney

Since 1993, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies has been reviewing Dietary Reference Values (DRVs). Yesterday, EFSA’s nutrition experts released DRVs for vitamin E as α-tocopherol and cobalamin (vitamin B12).

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin. Although previous definitions for vitamin E have included 4 tocopherols (α, β, γ and δ) and 4 tocotrienols (α, β, γ and δ), the EFSA nutrition experts consider vitamin E as being α-tocopherol only. This expert opinion reinforces the 2000 Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intake position that vitamin E requirements for humans are based exclusively on α-tocopherol. The EFSA experts established an Adequate Intake (AI) of 13 and 11 mg daily for adult men and women, respectively.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant with a 2010 EFSA approved a health claim that “vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress”. The claim encompasses maintaining normal hair, skin, nails, cardiac function, vision, blood circulation and cognitive function.

Vitamin E deficiency is defined as plasma α-tocopherol concentrations <12µmol/L (0.6 mg/dL). Vitamin E deficiency is not prevalent in the US but according to CDC Second Nutrition Report, the frequency of E deficiency is 3 times greater in non-Hispanic whites than non-Hispanic blacks. Men are more likely to be vitamin E deficient than women. With >90% of Americans and almost 50% of Germans not consuming recommended amounts of vitamin E, this report creates an opportunity to better inform consumers about the importance of maintaining optimal serum α-tocopherol concentrations.

Emerging data also suggest that vitamin E may help maintain liver and brain cognitive function. People with diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E supplementation (400 IU daily) reduced the risk of cardiovascular death and nonfatal heart attack by almost 50% (vs placebo) in individuals with diabetes and a haptoglobin 2-2 genoptype.

Cognitive impairment is associated with low vitamin E status. Lung function is positively associated with serum α-tocopherol concentrations in older adults with advanced obstructive pulmonary disease. Low serum α-tocopherol concentrations are associated with high adiposity in Mexican-American children.

For more information on vitamin E, visit Nutri-Facts or the NIH-ODS websites.

Main Citation

Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for Vitamin E as α-tocopherol. 2015 EFSA J doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4149

Other Citations

Shahar S, Lee LK, Rajab N, Lim CL, Harun NA, Noh MFNM, Mian-Then S,  Jamal R. Association between vitamin A, vitamin E and apolipoprotein E status with mild cognitive impairment among elderly people in low-cost residential areas. 2012 Nutr Neurosci doi: 10.1179/1476830512Y.0000000013

Blum S, Vardi M, Levy NS, Miller-Lotan R, Levy AP. The effect of vitamin E supplementation on cardiovascular risk in diabetic individuals with different haptoglobin phenotypes. 2010 Atheroscl doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2010.02.018

Hanson C et al.  Serum tocopherol levels and vitamin E intake are associated with lung function in the Normative Aging Study.  Clin Nutr 2015 doi:

Gunanti IR, Marks GC, Al-Mamun A, Long KZ. Low serum concentrations of carotenoids and vitamin E are associated with high adiposity in Mexican-American children.  2014 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.113.183137

Sanyal AJ, Chalasani N, Kowdley KV, McCullough A, Diehl AM, Bass NM, Newschwander-Tetri BA, Lavine JE, Tonascia J, Unalp A, Van Natta M, Clark J, Brunt EM, Kleiner DE, Hoofnagle JH, Robuck PR. Prioglitazone, vitamin E, or placebo for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. 2010 NEJM doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0907929

Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, et al. Effect of Vitamin E and Memantine on Functional Decline in Alzheimer Disease: The TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2014;311(1):33-44. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.282834

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whn May 11, 2017 10:40 AM
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