Vitamin E is a fat-soluble micronutrient which is essential for boosting immunity and prevents cell damage. It is naturally found in some of the food however, it can also be added in foods during fortification and we can also have supplements. Naturally occurring vitamin E found in 8 chemical forms out of which only alpha-tocopherol is known to suffice human requirement (1).

Types of Vitamin E

There are 8 types of naturally occurring vitamin E and it can be categorised in two groups (1):

  • Tocopherol Group: Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma- and Delta-tocopherol
  • Tocotrienol Group: Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma- and Delta-tocotrienol

What is Vitamin E Deficiency?

Vitamin E deficiency is the health condition caused by prolonged deprivation of Vitamin E. It may be caused by inadequate intake of Vitamin E rich diet and malabsorption due preexisting health conditions like chronic pancreatitis, cholestasis, cystic fibrosis and gastrointestinal disorders.

Functions of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a very important antioxidant which expels free radicals and protects cell, tissue and organs from harm caused by free radicals. It slows down the ageing process of cells and provide longer life. Vitamin E is also known for increasing immunity and prevention from various infections. It also play role in absorption and uses of vitamin K (2).

Causes of Vitamin E Deficiency

The condition of Vitamin E deficiency can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause have been illustrated below:

  • Inadequate Diet: The most common cause of Vitamin E deficiency is vitamin deficit diet. We often end up consuming foods which are poor in essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E. Fruits, vegetables and nuts are rich source of vitamin E however, it is not accessible to every income group. 
  • GI Disorders: Vitamin E is soluble in fat; hence it gets stored in liver for future use. Presence of gastrointestinal disorders interferes with the absorption of vitamin E. The deficiency can also be caused by the presence of other diseases like chronic pancreatitis, cholestasis, cystic fibrosis. These factors will lead to prolonged vitamin E deficiency (3).

Symptoms of Vitamin E Deficiency 

The common symptoms of Vitamin E deficiency include (3):

  • Nerve damage
  • Muscle damage
  • Body movement disorders
  • Muscle weakness
  • Age related vision problems
  • Impaired immunity 

Health Risks due to Vitamin E Deficiency

  • Haemolytic Anemia: It is the health condition in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they are produced. RBC is responsible for carrying oxygen to different tissues and organs. In case of anaemia our tissues and organs lack oxygen, which may cause body movement disorders. 
  • Heart Diseases: Vitamin E supplements are known to protect from cardiovascular diseases. Larges observational studies shows help from vitamin E supplements while controlled clinical trials have produced mixed results. Its validity needs further research and investigations (4, 5).
  • Impaired Immunity: Prolonged vitamin E deficiency impairs immunity. In this condition our body stands weak against fight with several diseases. Our body unable to protects against infections viral and bacterial infections.  

Its also been observed through various studies that vitamin E helps in preventing age-related eye disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Tests for Vitamin E Deficiency

There are several tests available for the diagnosis of Vitamin E deficiency in our body out of which blood test is the most widely used method of diagnosis. Before the test we need to fast for at least 12-14 hours and stop medications which may impact alpha-tocopherol concentration. 

  • Serum Test: Vitamin E is absorbed in liver and small intestine and released in small concentration to execute necessary functions. Serum tests measures the concentration of Vitamin E in our blood stream. For vitamin E test we need to be fast for ~12-14 hours. We can’t eat and drink during that period.

Remedies of Vitamin E Deficiency 

  • Vitamin E Supplements: If you are diagnosed with severe Vitamin E deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under supervision of doctors. As higher Vitamin E may lead to deadly health condition.
  • Vitamin E Rich Diet: Vitamin E rich food items will help in minimising the Vitamin E deficiency. Some of the Vitamin E rich food items are like includes Wheat germ oil, sunflower, safflower, soybean oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, spinach, pumpkin, red bell pepper, asparagus, mango, avocado.
  • Fortified Food Items: Rich source of vitamin E are fruits nuts, seed and vegetables. Agricultural lands lack in vitamin E concentration will produce foots with relatively low concentration of alpha-tocopherol. Such situation can be overcome by providing fortified seeds.  

Prevention of Vitamin E Deficiency

It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true with reference to micronutrient deficiencies. Vitamin E deficiency can be prevented through consumption of Vitamin E rich diet.

Food items rich in Vitamin E (4, 5):

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Sunflower 
  • Safflower
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts, peanut butter
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Red bell pepper
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Avocado

Ideally, we should consume adequate quantity of fruits and vegetables which are the major source of Vitamin E in our diet. 

Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):

The recommended intake of vitamin E varies with age however the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E for an adult is 15 mg. 

Vitamin E is fat-soluble antioxidant essential for maintaining healthy blood cells, controls body movement, boots immunity, prevents from deadly diseases like cancer and neurodegenerative disorders It plays vital role in expelling free radicals which are the root cause of several life-threatening diseases. 

Although Vitamin E deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by medical experts. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming adequate amount of Vitamin E as per RDA through various Vitamin E rich diet.