Vitamin E plays a vital role in your health. It is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and an antioxidant that fights free radicals. It helps your body make red blood cells and utilize vitamin K, which supports a healthy heart. Unfortunately, however, about 6 billion people throughout the world are deficient in vitamin E. Ninety percent of Americans do not consume the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this micronutrient.
The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams for people over age 14, although most adults in the U.S. get only about half that amount. A vitamin E deficiency can raise your risk for a number of diseases from a dysfunctional immune system, to cognitive deterioration, to heart disease. Deficiency is implicated in problems from infertility to Alzheimer’s. Adequate levels of E are particularly critical for young people, the elderly, and women who are or may become pregnant.
How Much Vitamin E Do You Need for Optimal Health?
Research shows only 21 percent of people studied had what scientists call a protective level of serum alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). Studies have determined that level is 30 micromol per liter (pmol/L). This level appears to be the threshold necessary to obtain “definable effects on human health in multiple areas.” Human studies have also found that you must consume at least 50 international units (IUs) of vitamin E in order to achieve the 30 micromol level.
The reason such widespread deficiencies exist is almost certainly a function of diet. The standard American diet is lacking not only in vitamin E, but also in a variety of other important antioxidants and micronutrients. Good sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and safflower oil.
Most westerners eat a lot of fat, but not healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados. Because E is fat-soluble, you must consume enough good fats to properly absorb this vitamin, whether it comes from foods you eat or from supplements. Research shows your body absorbs only 10 percent of vitamin E from a supplement if you take it without fat.