What About Vitamin E Supplements?

Vitamin E is fat-soluble and an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells from the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging byproducts of your metabolism. The body uses vitamin E to ward off harmful bacteria and viruses. Vitamin E also helps widen blood vessels and keeps blood clots from forming in them. 

Eating vitamin E in foods is not risky or harmful. Although many researchers have believed that vitamin E might help reduce the risk for cancer and heart disease, recent studies suggest that large doses of vitamin E in supplement form may have no proven clinical benefits. They may even be harmful. The average daily recommended intake for adults is 22.4 IU (15 mg), experts suggest.

Vitamin E supplements come in different forms. According to the Offfice of Dietary Supplements (ODS), vitamin E from natural (food) sources is listed as d-alpha-tocopherol on food packaging and supplement labels while synthetic (laboratory-made) vitamin E is listed as dl-alpha-tocopherol. The natural form is more potent. The upper safe level of intake from supplements for adults is 1,500 IU/day from natural forms and 1,100 IU/day from synthetic forms, the ODS says. 

What's your best course of action? Talk with your doctor about vitamin E supplements--and any others--before you start taking them. He or she can tell you how a supplement may affect your health. Vitamin E can increase bleeding in some people, so, a vitamin E supplement may be dangerous for someone on an anticoagulant, such as Coumadin (warfarin). Vitamin E supplements may also interact with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It is especially important for people with diabetes or vascular disease to check in with their doctors ahead of time, too. But, this advice isn't just for those with chronic conditions; it's a good idea for everyone.