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Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol) - Deficiency Risk and Symptoms

2 min read

Nutrient Name

Vitamin E.

Vitamin E comprises of 8 fat soluble molecules, the most abundant being ‘alpha-tocopherol (α-Tocopherol)’. The name tocopherol comes from the Greek "τόκος" [tókos, birth], and "φέρειν", [phérein, to bear or carry] meaning in sum "to carry a pregnancy".

Potential for deficiency

Very Common

Whilst a balanced diet will ordinarily give a sufficient intake of vitamins. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin E - 12 mg is widely accepted to be difficult to achieve even with a good nutritionally balanced diet. 

What does Vitamin E do?

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, It helps to protect cells, tissues, and organs from damaging effects caused by ‘free radicals’, which are responsible for the aging process and can lead to various health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory conditions.

Vitamin E helps to prevent arteries from clogging by blocking the conversion of cholesterol into plaque that sticks to blood vessel walls. Numerous clinical studies have reported that a higher intake of Vitamin E from food and dietary supplementation is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and other types of cardiovascular disease.

Studies have shown that Vitamin E may help protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration because of its antioxidant effects.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirms that clear health benefits have been established for the dietary intake of Vitamin E in contributing to:

  • the protection of cell constituents from oxidative damage

Food Sources

Vegetable oils, nuts and whole grains are the richest sources of Vitamin E. Other good sources include seeds and green leafy vegetables. 

The Vitamin E content in foods is often reported as ‘alpha-tocopherol equivalents’ (alpha-TE). This term was established to account for the differences in biological activity of the various forms of vitamin E (1 mg of alpha-tocopherol is equivalent to 1 TE).

Symptoms of deficiency

  • liver disease
  • muscle weakness
  • nerve impulses (twitching)
  • impaired vision
  • a lack of co-ordination


A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.