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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Vitamin E: More Evidence of Health Benefits and Gaps in Intake

By Rachel Murphy

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that plays a key role in protecting cell membranes, protecting low density lipoproteins (LDLs) from oxidation (oxidized LDLs contribute to cardiovascular disease), and the regulation of cell growth and differentiation.  Adults aged 20 and older have an RDA of 15 mg/day, but the most recent dietary data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows gaps in intake in the United States.  Males and females aged 20 and older who do not use dietary supplements have mean vitamin E intake of only 9.9 and 7.3 mg, 66% and 49% of the RDA. Intakes are even lower in adults over age 60; 62% and 46% of the RDA, respectively (DSM internal research). Given the importance of vitamin E and the gaps in intake, the lack of attention around vitamin E from researchers and health professionals is surprising.

A recent study by Hanson and colleagues reports beneficial health associations with vitamin E in older adults and provides a reason to re-new conversations on vitamin E.  Among 580 older men, Hanson and colleagues measured dietary vitamin E intake, serum gamma, delta, and alpha-tocopherol; the most abundant form of vitamin E in the human body. They also measured lung function which declines with aging and negatively impacts quality of life. Serum alpha-tocopherol was lowest in men who smoked and serum delta-tocopherol was lower in men with more advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Better lung function was positively associated with vitamin E intake and use of vitamin E supplements.  

Vitamin E supplementation has declined after studies reported no effects on cardiovascular disease with pharmacological doses of vitamin E.  However, it is important to put this in perspective. Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that is needed to maintain health as studies like that of Hanson and colleagues show.  Vitamin E is lacking in the diet of most Americans  and fortified foods or supplements that provide the amount needed to reach the RDA are effective means to close the nutrient gap.


Main Citation:

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:


Other Citations:

Ricciarelli R et al. Vitamin E reduces the uptake of oxidized LDL by inhibiting CD36 scavenger receptor expression in cultured aortic smooth muscle cells. Circulation 2000 doi:10.1161/01.CIR.102.1.82

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from

Chae CU, Albert CM, Moorthy MV, Lee I-M, Buring JE. Vitamin E supplementation and the risk of heart failure in women. Circulation 2012 doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.111.96793