Why you may need double the vitamin E

Around 40 percent of Americans are afflicted with metabolic syndrome…

It’s a condition that is commonly identified in people who have three or more of the following risk factors — excess abdominal weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar.

If you find yourself in this situation, frequently the dietary advice is to decrease your fat intake. But it turns out, you could pay an awful price by doing so…

Many of your body’s fat-soluble vitamins act as powerful antioxidant and anti- inflammatory agents to help combat the damaging effects of free radicals and cellular inflammation, and support healthy metabolism and organ function.

One such fat-soluble vitamin is vitamin E, otherwise known as alpha-tocopherol or a-tocopherol…

Vitamin E is not only a potent antioxidant, but is required to make red blood cells, support immune function, assist the body in its use of vitamin K, promote heart health via its actions on blood vessels and arteries, and assist in various metabolic processes.

It’s estimated that 92-96 percent of Americans fail to meet the daily recommended average intake of 12-15 mg per day, with majority of people only getting 7.2 mg.

And guess who often has the lowest intake?

Those who needs its protective benefits the most: obese individuals with metabolic syndrome!

And therein lies the problem…

A sneaky vitamin E deficiency

A clinical trial in men and women with metabolic syndrome, required participants to beef up their vitamin E by consuming 15 mg vitamin E capsules, along with non-fat, reduced-fat, full fat, or soy milk, on an empty stomach at 7 am each day. Along with consuming the milk and supplements, they were required to eat a standard 2000-2500 calorie diet that contained an additional 5 mg of a-tocopherol (natural vitamin E).

Then their vitamin E levels were tested — and appeared normal.

But there was a problem… You see, the participants had an immediate but transient elevation in vitamin E levels that created an illusion of sufficient vitamin E. However, according to several biomarkers measured in the study, the participants with metabolic syndrome clearly had lower vitamin E levels, indicating the tissues throughout their bodies were deficient.

On top of this, those in the study also produced higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory molecules, which also indicates a higher need for vitamin E.

Ultimately, the research found that people with metabolic syndrome were not only deficient but that they needed 30 to 50 percent more vitamin E than the average person!

So if you were to take a visit to the doctor, all may seem fine on the vitamin E front… But in actual fact, the superficial readings could be masking an underlying deficiency capable of seriously endangering your health.

Boosting our vitamin E

Thankfully, consuming vitamin E-rich foods can help increase your vitamin E status. And there are lots of whole food sources (many of them healthy fats) that contain vitamin E…

Potent sources include:

  • Wheat germ – 20.3 mg in 1 tablespoon
  • Almonds – 6.8 mg in one ounce
  • Sunflower seeds – 7.4 mg in one ounce
  • Hazelnuts – 4.3 mg per ounce
  • Peanut butter – 3.2 mg per 2 tablespoons
  • Canned tomato sauce – 3.5 mg per 1 cup
  • Avocado – 2.7 mg per 1 fruit
  • Fish, rainbow trout – 2.4 mg per 3 ounces
  • Spinach – 1.9 mg in 1 cup steamed or boiled
  • Olive oil – 1.9 mg in 1 tablespoon
  • Canned asparagus – 1.6 mg per half cup
  • Swiss chard – 1.6 mg per half cup
  • Broccoli – 1.1 mg per half cup
  • Eggs – 1 mg per egg

Spices such as cayenne, paprika and curry powders also contain a-tocopherol. And there are smaller amounts found in a variety of other foods.

It’s always best to get vitamins through food sources, as foods also contain other vitamins and compounds that work in synergy to aid absorption. However, this can be hard to do, which is why supplementation can help.

In terms of supplements, there are natural forms — vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) and synthetic forms — vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol). Sometimes there can be a blend of different tocopherols in supplements, too. Overall though, the natural form is considered superior.

My colleague Dr. Michael Cutler has discussed choosing the “right” vitamin E supplement previously, so I’d recommend you read that information before you go shopping.

As for dosage, based on clinical trials, the dosage for normal adults (to prevent disease) is 400 to 800 IU per day. For those with metabolic syndrome, you may be looking at up to 1000 IU per day.

One word of caution when taking vitamin E: If you’re taking blood thinners warfarin, (Coumadin), aspirin, or clopidogrel (Plavix), vitamin E can lead to increased bleeding, so be sure to check with your doctor first about these or any medications you may be taking.

  1. Traber MG, et al. Metabolic syndrome increases dietary a-tocopherol requirements as assessed using urinary and plasma vitamin E catabolites: a double-blind, crossover clinical trial. — Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105:571–9.
  2. Mah E, et al. a-Tocopherol bioavailability is lower in adults with metabolic syndrome regardless of dairy fat co-ingestion: a randomized, double-blind, crossover trial. — Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102:1070–80.
  3. Vitamin E — University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 18 April, 2017
  4. Vitamin E — OregonState.edu. (2014). Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved 18 April, 2017
  5. Kim GH, et al. Effect of vitamin E in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with metabolic syndrome: A propensity score-matched cohort study. — Clinical and Molecular Hepatology. 2015;21(4):379-386


Jedha Dening

By Jedha Dening

Jedha Dening is a qualified nutritionist (MNutr), researcher, author, freelance writer, and founder of type 2 diabetic nutrition site Diabetes Meal Plans. Her masters thesis on nutrition and inflammation was published and then presented at a national scientific conference. She has millions of words published in the health industry across various print and online publications. Having been in the field for over 15 years, she’s incredibly passionate about delving into the latest research to share the myths and truths surrounding nutrition and health. She believes when armed with the right knowledge, we’re empowered to make informed choices that can truly make a difference.