Vitamin E

Health and nutrition : Nutrients found in vegetables

Definition

Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is a liposoluble vitamin, i.e., it is soluble in fats. There are eight different forms of Vitamin E compounds (alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienols). The form most frequently found in nature is alpha-tocopherol. This is also the most biologically active form.

Role in the body

The primary characteristic of Vitamin E is its antioxidant properties : it protects the body's cell membranes by trapping free radicals and preventing them from spreading. Vitamin E works together (synergistically) with the body's other antioxidant defense systems (free radical scavengers, enzymatic systems, regeneration system, etc.). In addition to its antioxidant action, Vitamin E contributes to platelet aggregation (by preventing excessive aggregation) and inflammatory responses.

Sources in vegetables and other foods (source: Ciqual, 1995)

Since Vitamin E is liposoluble, it is therefore found primarily in fats. The most important sources are plant-based: oils and margarine, oleaginous fruits, germs of cereals. Fruits and vegetables are the second largest source of Vitamin E. They do not contain high levels of Vitamin E (between 1 and 1.8 mg per 100 g for the richest sources), but the size of the portions consumed (we eat 10 g of oil and between 100 and 200 g of vegetables) makes them a significant source of Vitamin E nonetheless: between 12 % and 18 % of our Vitamin E intake comes from fruits and vegetables.

Foods with the highest Vitamin E content

mg/100g

Sunflower oil

56

Margarine

43

Grapeseed oil

32

Wheat germ, hazelnuts, almonds

20-25

Groundnut oil, canola oil, soya bean oil

15-20

Olive oil, walnut oil

10-15

Peanuts, eel, fish oil

5-10

Walnuts, butter, egg yolk, dandelion, sweet potato

2-5

Spinach, asparagus, chickpeas, cress, chestnuts, broccoli, tomatoes, smoked salmon, omelette, wholegrain bread

1-2

 

Recommended intake

The RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) of Vitamin E is 10 mg/day. The RNAs (Recommended Nutritional Allowances) are given for the French public by age bracket in mg/day.

Age bracket

RNA in mg/day

Infants

4 mg

Children ages 1-3

6 mg

Children ages 4-6

7.5 mg

Children ages 7-9

9 mg

Children ages 10-12

11 mg

Adolescents and adults

12 mg

Pregnant and nursing women

12 mg

 

Deficiencies / Excess

 

Genuine Vitamin E deficiency is unusual in adult men. It is ususally characterized nervous system problems.

In most cases, a deficiency is the result of serious and prolonged difficulty with lipid absorption and metabolism.

Epidemiological studies indicate that about 5 % of the French population consumes very little Vitamin E. Nonetheless, values below the threshold indicating a biological deficiency are not found among the overalll population.

Excess Vitamin E does not appear to be toxic. However, there is currently no absolute certainty that prolonged moderate or significant intake of Vitamin E is harmless.

 

Disadvantage

Vitamin E is not notably sensitive to heat, but it is sensitive to light and oxygen. Therefore, foods that are rich in Vitamin E should be stored in a dark place (such as a cupboard) and in firmly sealed containers.

Tips / advices from the nutritionist

Who said fats weren't good for you? In addition to providing essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, non-hydrogenated vegetable oils contain this antioxidant vitamin that protects your cells. And there's no need to add a lot to get the benefits of vegetable oils: just a dash on raw or cooked vegetables will enhance their Vitamin E content. Vitamin C and beta-carotene from the vegetables and Vitamin E from the oil...truly an anxioxidant cocktail!