Though vitamin E is often thought of as a single compound, it’s actually a group of eight fat-soluble compounds with powerful antioxidant effects.
Of these eight chemical forms, alpha-tocopherol best meets the dietary requirements of humans.
Vitamin E exists naturally in certain foods, including seeds, nuts, some vegetables, and some fortified products. You can also take it as a dietary supplement.
It plays many roles in your body. It’s perhaps best known for its antioxidant effects, protecting your cells from oxidative damage by neutralizing harmful molecules called free radicals. In addition, it’s needed for proper immune function and cellular signaling.
That’s why it’s not surprising that research suggests taking vitamin E supplements may benefit your health in several ways.
- May reduce markers of oxidative stress and improve antioxidant defenses
Oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when there’s an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the production and accumulation of compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS). This can lead to cellular damage and increased disease risk.
Because vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body, studies have shown that supplementing with high doses of it can reduce markers of oxidative stress and boost antioxidant defenses in some populations.
For example, a 2018 study in 54 people with diabetic nephropathy — kidney damage caused by high blood sugar — found that supplementing with 800 IU of vitamin E per day for 12 weeks significantly increased levels of glutathione peroxidase (GPx) compared with a placebo.
GPx is a group of antioxidant enzymes that protect your cells from oxidative damage.
A 2021 study also showed that supplementing with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C daily for 8 weeks reduced markers of oxidative stress, such as malondialdehyde and ROS, in women with endometriosis.
- May reduce heart disease risk factors
Having high blood pressure and high levels of blood lipids such as LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides may increase your risk of developing heart disease.
Promisingly, research suggests that vitamin E supplements may help reduce heart disease risk factors such as these in some people.
A 2019 review of 18 studies found that, compared with placebo treatments, vitamin E supplements significantly reduced systolic but not diastolic blood pressure — the top and bottom numbers of blood pressure readings, respectively.
Some studies also show that taking vitamin E with omega-3 supplements may reduce LDL and triglyceride levels in people with metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions, including high blood fat levels, that increases the risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
- May benefit those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
NAFLD includes a number of conditions that cause an accumulation of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol.
According to research findings, vitamin E supplements may improve some aspects of health in people with NAFLD.
A 2021 review of eight studies found that supplementing with vitamin E reduced levels of the liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), decreased blood lipid levels, and improved liver health in people with NAFLD.
Elevated AST and ALT levels can indicate liver inflammation and damage in people with NAFLD, so lower levels are favorable.
- May help manage dysmenorrhea
Dysmenorrhea is a condition characterized by severe and frequent menstrual pain, such as cramps and pelvic pain.
Promisingly, research suggests vitamin E supplements may reduce pain in women with this condition.
In a 2018 study in 100 women with dysmenorrhea, taking 200 IU of vitamin E daily relieved menstrual pain more than a placebo. The effects were even better when the vitamin was combined with an omega-3 supplement containing 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA.
Additionally, a 2021 study showed that supplementing with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C daily for 8 weeks helped reduce the severity of pelvic pain and dysmenorrhea in women with endometriosis.
5–8. Other potential health benefits
Vitamin E supplements have also been linked to several other health benefits:
- May benefit skin health. Vitamin E supplements may be helpful for those with certain skin disorders, such as eczema. However, research is currently limited, and more studies are needed to learn more about this potential benefit.
- May benefit cognitive health. Maintaining optimal vitamin E levels and taking supplements may help protect against cognitive decline. But it’s still unclear whether the supplements benefit people with cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
- May benefit older adults. Because vitamin E plays important roles in health, such as reducing inflammation and improving immune function, supplements may benefit people who have increased needs or don’t get enough in their diets, such as some older adults.
- May improve lung function. Studies have shown that vitamin E supplements could improve lung function and certain symptoms of asthma in children and adults.