Since vitamin D was discovered, vitamin E has largely been ignored, yet the nutrient is no less essential to our health. It is required for healthy reproduction, skin, vision, blood and brain. Like other antioxidants, it plays a critical role in protecting us from aging and disease by neutralizing free radicals.
Because vitamin E is necessary for so many aspects of our body, there can be a wide range of signs or symptoms of deficiency. It is not necessary to have all of the following symptoms; because these symptoms can indicate other health issues, it is important to consult with your physician if you have any symptoms.
Signs or Symptoms of Vitamin E Deficiency
Blood clots or the tendency to form blood clots
Dry hair, split ends or thinning hair
Impotence or low sexual drive in men
Immune system problems, particularly among older adults
Loss of muscle mass
Menstrual pain in women
Neuropathy (Nerve pain)
Numbness and tingling (peripheral neuropathy—a vitamin E deficiency has been linked to the breakdown of nerve cells known as the Purkinje neurons, impairing their ability to transmit signals)
Vitamin E Deficiencies Linked to Other Medical Conditions
Some of the medical conditions that can cause a vitamin E deficiency include:
Newborns and premature babies are also at risk of a vitamin E deficiency
Conditions Improved by Increased Vitamin E Intake
While any of the above conditions may be improved by increasing your vitamin E intake, research also shows that it may help fight Alzheimer’s disease, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy that was previously known as toxemia), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and prostate cancer.
Food Sources of Vitamin E
There are many excellent plant-based foods that contain vitamin E as most nuts, grains and seeds contain the nutrient. Here are some of the best:
Sunflower seeds—Just one ounce of sunflower seeds contains 10 milligrams of vitamin E. Raw, unsalted sunflower seeds are best.
Almonds—One ounce of almonds contains 7.3 milligrams of vitamin E. Like other nuts and seeds, it is best to choose raw, unsalted varieties.
Hazelnut Oil—One tablespoon of hazelnut oil contains 6.4 milligrams of vitamin E.
Sunflower Oil—One tablespoon of sunflower oil contains 5.6 milligrams of vitamin E. Choose unrefined options as most sunflower oil is heavily refined and heated above the smoke point during processing, making it an unhealthy option. Choose cold-pressed oil instead.
Almond Oil—One tablespoon of almond oil contains 5.3 milligrams of vitamin E. Choose cold-pressed oil.
Hazelnuts—One ounce of hazelnuts contains 4.3 milligrams of vitamin E. Choose cold-pressed oil.
Pine nuts—One ounce of pine nuts, also known as pignolia nuts, contains 2.7 milligrams of vitamin E.
Avocado—One half an avocado contains 2.1 milligrams of vitamin E.
Red Peppers—One red sweet bell pepper contains 1.9 milligrams of vitamin E.
Brazil nuts—One ounce of Brazil nuts contains 1.6 milligrams of vitamin E.
Supplementing with Vitamin E
Food is always the best way to obtain any nutrient; however, sometimes higher amounts are needed than can be obtained by diet alone. There are many different vitamin E options on the market. Ideally, choose one that says “mixed tocopherols” on the label.
If you are vegan or vegetarian you’ll want to pay attention to the label of the products you select as many are sources from fish. Most nutritionist recommend between 400 and 800 IU of vitamin E. Since many drugs interact with vitamin E be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before supplementing with this nutrient.