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DSM study shows most US adults have low vitamin E status

Kaiseraugst, CH, 20 Aug 2015 12:45 CEST

According to a new Public Library of Science (PLOS) ONE study, 87% of 20-30 year old and 68% of 31-50 year old Americans are not maintaining optimal serum α-tocopherol concentrations. The criterion of adequacy for vitamin E used in the PLOS ONE study was a serum α-tocopherol level of 30 µmol/L1. This was based on nationally representative cross-sectional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2006). Proportions of inadequate serum α-tocopherol were compared between individuals reporting use of dietary supplements (yes or no) by sex, age, and race/ethnicity.  

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and carries an approved EFSA health claim for ‘contributing to the protection of cells from oxidative stress2. Vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, along with fortified cereal and green leafy vegetables are significant dietary sources of vitamin E. The research was conducted because more than 90% of American adults do not eat the recommended dietary intake (15 mg/day) of vitamin E from food, with the caveat that it may be hard to account for sources such as vegetable oils3.

Study results found lower average α-tocopherol levels in people who do not use dietary supplements, even when adjusted for total cholesterol. Among those depending exclusively on food sources, 93% of 20-30 year olds, 81% of 31-50 year olds, and 81% of individuals over 51 years old had suboptimal vitamin E status. Lower proportions were observed among individuals reporting dietary supplement use (79% of 20-30 year olds, 54% of 31-50 year olds, and 29% for those over 51 years old). Older adults had lower proportion of inadequate serum α-tocopherol concentrations.

Senior author, Dr. Saurabh Mehta, a faculty member at Cornell University says: “These findings indicate that it is important to conduct further research to elucidate the association of serum α-tocopherol concentrations with specific health outcomes.”

Co-author Manfred Eggersdorfer, Senior Vice President, Nutrition, Science & Advocacy at DSM and Professor for Healthy Ageing at Groningen University, comments: “We have known for years that vitamin E intake of Americans was significantly below the Institute of Medicine4 recommendation of 15 mg daily. 87% of all 20-30 year olds, and 93% if they do not use a supplement, have serum α-tocopherol concentration below 30 µmol/L.”

Michael McBurney, VP Science, Scientific Communications and Advocacy at DSM adds: “Epidemiological studies indicate that maintaining serum α-tocopherol may help maintain reproductive, brain, and liver function.”

DSM Nutritional Products provided financial support through an unencumbered gift to Cornell University.

For more information on the role that vitamin E pays in supporting human health visit DSM’s webinar channel.

Vitamins in Motion

Vitamins play an essential role for health, wellness and disease prevention throughout the lifecycle. They are key to solving our global nutritional challenges. DSM, a global leader in health and nutrition science, is leading an initiative - Vitamins in Motion - to highlight the important role of vitamins. The campaign advocates for increased access, through innovative solutions, to the essential vitamins all people need to be healthy and well-nourished. To learn more, visit

1 Based on the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) and lowest mortality rate in the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene (ATBC) study
2 Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to vitamin E. 2010 EFSA J 8:1816
3 Fulgoni VL, 3rd, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J (2011) Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 141: 1847-1854.
4 IOM (2000) Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids.