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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Want to Know if Age or Sex affects Vitamin E Inside the Body?

By Michael McBurney

Of the 11 vitamins examined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), 7 are named as shortfall nutrients - vitamins A, C, D, E, K, choline, and folic acid for women of child-bearing age. Imagine, of the vitamins, two-thirds are under-consumed. The 2015 DGAC set precedent by identifying vitamin E as a shortfall nutrient. Even though >90% of adults in the US do not consume the estimated average requirement (EAR) for vitamin E (12 mg daily), previous DGACs have overlooked vitamin E. For a better understanding of an EAR with respect to personal needs, see yesterday’s ‘Nutrition Advice for Residents of Lake Wobegon’ post.

Vitamin E Dietary Reference Intakes were set in 2000 even though the availability of different forms of vitamin E found in foods was unknown. Traber and associates used collard greens grown in deuterated water to study vitamin E absorption and metabolism. Plasma vitamin E concentrations peak around 12h after a meal. Vitamin E absorbed can be found in the blood for days, having a half-life of 30h. Men and women do not seem to differ in their absorption and metabolism of vitamin E. Vitamin E metabolism does not change with age.

The authors report that α-tocopherol is absorbed and metabolized similarly regardless if the vitamin E is found naturally in plants or added as α-tocopherol acetate to enrich or fortify foods. Because vitamin E is fat-soluble , it is carried with blood lipids. When serum lipoprotein levels are elevated serum, vitamin E absorbed from a meal stays in circulation in the bloodstream longer.

The 2015 DGAC should be recognized for identifying vitamin E as a shortfall nutrient. Vitamin E deserves more attention by researchers. We need a better understanding of vitamin E absorption and metabolism because  vitamin E plays a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, the management of liver function in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and  the prevention of miscarriages during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Main Citation

Traber MG, Leonard SW, Bobe G, Fu X, Saltzman E, Grusak MA, Booth SL. Α-Tocopherol disappearance rates from plasma depend on lipid concentrations: studies using deuterium-labeled collard greens in younger and older adults. 2015 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.100966

Other citations

Morris MC, Schneider JA, Li H, Tangney CC, Nag S, Bennett DA, Honer WG, Barnes LL. Brain tocopherols related to Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology in humans. 2015 Alzheimer Dementia doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2013.12.015

Sato K, Gosho M, Yamamoto T, Kobayashi Y, Ishii N, Ohashi T, Nakade Y, Ito K, Fukuzawa Y, Yoneda M. Vitamin E has a beneficial efficacy on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. 2014 Nutr doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.11.018

Shamim AA, Schulze K, Merrill RD, Kabir A, Christian P, Shaikh S, Wu L, Ali H, Labrique AB, Mehra S, Klemm RDW, Rashid M, Sungpuag P, Udomkesmalee E, West Jr KP. First trimester plasma tocopherols are associated with risk of miscarriage in rural Bangladesh. 2014 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.094920