Vitamin E (tocopherols)

Vitamin E is fat-soluble vitamin.

Tocopherols which occur in the nature are synthesized only by plants. There, as well as in the animal organism, they act as a protection system against the accumulation of reactive oxygen and thus in particular prevent peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids in membrane lipids.

In the absence of vitamin E in humans as a result of radicals accumulation and lipid peroxidation, various deficiency symptoms occur, affecting membrane function, muscle metabolism and nervous system.

Studies on elderly people (> 80 years) showed no increased need for tocopherols in comparison to young adults. In digestion and absorption disorders, tocopherol bioavailability is reduced and the needs are increasing.

Estimated values ​​for the appropriate intake

Age Tocopferol mg-equivalent1, 2/day
m ž
0 to less than 4 months 3 3
4 to less than 12 months 4 4
1 to less than 4 years 6 5
4 to less than 7 years 8 8
7 to less than  10 years 10 9
10 to less than 13 years 13 11
13 to less than 15 years 14 12
Adolescent and adults
15 to less than 19 years 15 12
19 to less than 25 years 15 12
25 to less than 51 years 14 12
51 to less than 65 years 13 12
65 years and older 12 11
Pregnant women
Nursing mothers3 17
11 mg of RRR-α-tocopherol-equivalent = 1 mg of RRR-α-tocopherol = 1.49 IU; 1 IU = 0.67 mg of RRR-α-tocopherol = 1 mg all-rac-α-Tocopherylacetat   21 mg of RRR-α-tocopherol (D-α-tocopherol) - equivalent = 1.1 mg of RRR-α-tocopherylacetat (D-α-tocopherylacetat) = 2 mg of RRR-β-tocopherol (D-β-tocopherol) = 4 mg of RRR-γ-tocopherol (D-γ-tocopherol) = 100 mg of RRR-δ-tocopherol (D-δ-tocopherol) = 3.3 mg of RRR-α-tocotrienol (D-α-tocotrienol) = 1.49 mg of total rac-α-tocopherylacetat (D, L-α-tocopherylacetat).  3Approximately 260 µg of added RRR-α-tocopherol equivalents per 100 g of secreted milk.

Upper intake limit
Compared with the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, oral intake of vitamin E is relatively non-toxic. Oral intake of 200-800 mg of α-tocopherol equivalents per day is acceptable for adults. High dosage occasionaly causes gastrointestinal disorders and reduces the concentration of thyroid hormones in the blood. The upper intake limit without side effects is 200 mg of α-tocopherol equivalents a day, especially if acetylsalicylic acid, which affects eicosanoics synthesis just like tocopherol, is taken at the same time. Very large quantities (> 800 mg of tocopheril equivalents per day) may prevent platelet aggregation and thus prolong the bleeding time. It is therefore advised not to add high doses of vitamin E two weeks before or after surgery.

The data in our database
Our database of food composition includes information about the nutritional value of vitamin E from three sources:
  • vitamin E (active) from the Slovenian database of meat and meat products;
  • α-tocopherol from the European database;
  • α-tocopherol from the American database;
Good sources of
α-tocopherol are
  • wheat germ oil,
  • sunflower oil,
  • corn germ oil and
  • rapeseed oil;
  • wheat germ oil;
  • corn germ oil and,
  • soybean oil;
  • soybean oil.
It should be noted that a part of the vitamin E content is necessary to protect the unsaturated fatty acids from oils and thus the beta- and delta-tocopherols are significantly more effective than in the body. Wheat germ and nuts also contain significant amounts. In foods of animal origin the content of tocopherols is relatively low and depends on animal nutrition.