Update on Vitamin E

Update on Vitamin E
4.53 (90.67%) 15 votes

Paying to live a shorter life.


Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

What about vitamin E? The concern has been that vitamin E supplements increase all-cause mortality—meaning those taking vitamin E live, on average, a shorter life.

And now, we know just how much shorter. A QALY, a “quality-adjusted life-year,” is defined as a year of healthy, illness-free life. If you take vitamin E supplements, you live, on average, 0.3 QALYs less than if you did not take vitamin E supplements.

So, by buying vitamin E, you’re paying to erase like four healthy, illness-free months from your lifespan. Still, harmful.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Eden Politte via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

What about vitamin E? The concern has been that vitamin E supplements increase all-cause mortality—meaning those taking vitamin E live, on average, a shorter life.

And now, we know just how much shorter. A QALY, a “quality-adjusted life-year,” is defined as a year of healthy, illness-free life. If you take vitamin E supplements, you live, on average, 0.3 QALYs less than if you did not take vitamin E supplements.

So, by buying vitamin E, you’re paying to erase like four healthy, illness-free months from your lifespan. Still, harmful.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Eden Politte via flickr

Doctor's Note

Check out these videos on fat-soluble vitamins:
Is Vitamin D the New Vitamin E?
Is Vitamin D3 Better Than D2?

And check out my other videos on Vitamin E

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Eating To Extend Our LifespanSoy milk: shake it up! and Should We Take a Multivitamin?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

32 responses to “Update on Vitamin E

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  1. What is the dose of Vitamin E that becomes harmful? Or are all doses harmful?

    Isn’t Vitamin E included in a lot of multivitamin supplements? Should we avoid those that have Vitamin E in them?

    1. Great question Lindsey! All we know based on this series of studies is that typical doses appear harmful. How these studies are typically run is by asking people if they take the vitamin in question (no dose specified) and then after controlling for a number of factors see if the people that claimed they did do better or worse than those reporting that they don’t. In terms of multivitamins, next week I’m going to be posting a new video on how taking multivitamins may increase breast cancer risk. Until then check out my other multivitamin videos.

    1. Hello Kmatthews, similarly to synthetic vitamin c (ascorbic acid), and natural vitamin c from plants, your body will treat it and react the same way. The same can’t be said for synthetic vitamin a and the carotenoids found in plants as one can’t really overdose on the plant form of vitamin a if taken through its natural plant form. The second you isolate a mineral or vitamin you can expect an imbalance (unless one is truly deficient or requires supplementation for health reasons such as b12, vitamin d and in some cases, iodine.)

      In conclusion, we should not be supplementing vitamin E, whether it be synthetic or extracted from its natural form.

  2. This study was based on useless synthetic vitamin E, not on the natural Mixed Tocopherols form!

    I much appreciate your work Dr Greger, but you need to mention important details like this in your video’s.

    Plus lets be honest, how can any study tell us if Vitamin E supplements shorten or lengthen our lifespan? There are just way to many individual diet variables in a control group to come up with any form of accuracy on any vitamin study regarding human longevity. Lets all keep our common sense hat on we we look at these supplement studies regarding longevity, and that’s no matter which way the study turns out.

  3. Hi Rick, You are correct that the studies to date don’t “prove” that Vit E shortens lifespan. Reading the abstract connected with the video they were concerned with “high” dose Vit E and left open the possibility that low dose vitamin E might be okay. However the studies have shown that vitamin E does correlate with shorter lifespan. So there is evidence to not take Vitamin Supplements of A, E, and D. See Dr. Gregers other video http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/antioxidant-vitamin-supplements/. This makes some sense to me since A, D and E are the fat soluble vitamins and can accumulate in our bodies as opposed to the B vitamins which are water soluble and don’t accumulate. It is interesting to me that my patients want science to stop taking supplements but don’t base their decision to take supplements on scientific studies. At this point my recommendations are to get your vitamins, minerals and trace elements by consuming a varied whole plant diet. The only vitamin I routinely recommend for folks following a plant based diet is Vitamin B12. It is clear that we need more studies in the area of human nutrition and supplements.

  4. ugh….why do i always see these things right after i buy a product!!! i was just thrilled to find vitashine plant based vitamin d3 (my bloodtest for D came in at 8 so I need to supplement but am vegan).  well $40 later, sure enough, there is vitamin E in this spray bottle as well.  Dr. Greger, would you recommend not taking it due to the E? If so, do you have any other recommendations for plant based D3?  I’m hesitant to use D2 b/c of all the aggravating controversy. Thnx in advance and thnx for this whole site!

    1. There are some misconceptions about Vitamin D2

      There are two types of vitamin D:

      Vitamin D3
      – cholecalciferol; is derived from animals (usually from sheep’s wool
      or fish oil). It is the preferred form that is usually recommended as studies have shown it to be more effective, and it is the form animals (including humans) synthesize from sunlight.

      Vitamin D2
      – ergocalciferol; a plant chemical that is the form synthesized by
      plants. It has vitamin D activity in humans, but not as much activity as

      While D3 has been shown to be more effective (some studies have estimated it to be about 3- 10x more effective) it doesn’t mean that D2 is ineffective.

      If you are avoiding animal products, and are unable to get enough Vit D from exposure to sunlight, a Vit D2 supplement may be a solution, but you may have to take more of it, or take it more often.

      The reason is that in a study done in 2004, subjects were given one dose of 50,000 IU of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 was absorbed just as well as vitamin D3. However, after three days, blood levels of 25(OH)D decreased rapidly in the subjects who were given vitamin D2 and by 14 days they had fallen to the original level. Those who received vitamin D3 sustained high levels for two weeks before dropping gradually. This seems to indicates that vitamin D2 needs to be taken at least every three days to maintain adequate blood levels.

      Quoting from the study..

      relative potencies of vitamins D(2) and D(3) were evaluated by
      administering single doses of 50,000 IU of the respective calciferols to
      20 healthy male volunteers, following the time course of serum vitamin D
      and 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) over a period of 28 d and measuring the
      area under the curve of the rise in 25OHD above baseline.The two calciferols produced similar rises in serum concentration of the administered vitamin,indicating equivalent absorption. Both produced similar initial rises in serum 25OHD over the first 3 d, but
      25OHD continued to rise in the D(3)-treated subjects, peaking at 14 d,
      whereas serum 25OHD fell rapidly in the D(2)-treated subjects and was
      not different from baseline at 14 d.

      In addition..

      Assessment of the effectiveness and safety of high daily 125 microg
      (5,000 IU) or 250 microg (10,000IU) doses of vitamin D(2) during 3
      months, in rapidly obtaining adequate 25 hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD)

      DESIGN: Longitudinal study.

      Postmenopausal osteopenic/osteoporotic women (n = 38 ) were studied
      during winter and spring. Median age (25-75th percentile) was 61.5
      (57.00-66.25) years, and mean bone mineral density (BMD) was 0.902
      (0.800-1.042)g/cm(2). Subjects were randomly divided into three groups:
      control group (n=13): no vitamin D(2), 125 mug/day (n=13) and 250
      microg/day (n=12) of vitamin D(2) groups, all receiving 500 mg
      calcium/day. Serum calcium, phosphate, bone alkaline phosphatase (BAP),
      C-telopeptide (CTX), 25OHD, mid-molecule parathyroid hormone (mmPTH),
      daily urinary calcium and creatinine excretion were determined at
      baseline and monthly.

      RESULTS: For all subjects (n=38 ), the
      median baseline 25 hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) level was 36.25 (27.5-48.12)
      nmol/l. After 3 months, 8% of the patients in the control group, 50% in
      the 125 microg/day group and 75% in the 250 microg/day group had 25OHD
      values above 85 nmol/l (34 ng/ml). Considering both vitamin D(2) groups
      together, mmPTH and BAP levels diminished significantly after 3 months
      (P<0.02), unlike those of CTX. Serum calcium remained within normal
      range during the follow-up.

      CONCLUSIONS: The oral dose of vitamin
      D(2) required to rapidly achieve adequate levels of 25OHD is seemingly
      much higher than the usual recommended vitamin D(3) dose (20 mug/day).
      During 3 months, 250 microg/day of vitamin D(2) most effectively raised
      25OHD levels to 85 nmol/l in 75% of the postmenopausal
      osteopenic/osteoporotic women treated.


      Concluded: Vitamin D deficiency was less prevalent
      in elderly women taking Vitamin D(2) supplements (1.8%) compared to
      women not taking any supplements (12%).


      Concluded: In elderly subjects, both vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3
      supplements may contribute equally to circulating 25OHD levels, with
      the role of vitamin D supplement use being more predominant during

      1. I appreciate that information. Being that D3 does seem to be more effective, then if there is a vegan choice available, I would rather take that.  This is why I’m wondering about the safety of the Vit E included in this product.  A rep said that each spray contains < .1%.  So Im still unsure if this will do more harm than good.

      2. Not sure where you got the idea that cholecalciferol; is derived from animals (usually from sheep’s wool)

        Vitamin D synthesis in humans

        – Solar radiation stimulates precursor molecule in the skin (7-Dehydrocholestero)
        – That reaction causes cholecalciferol
        – Cholecalciferol reactions in the liver to form 25-Dihydroxi Vitamin-D3
        – 25-Dihydroxi Vitamin-D3 reactions in the kidney to form Vitamin D (calcitriol)

  5. What is the RDA for vitamin E? I can’t find any decent information on this. In the UK they say 4mg, America they say 15mg, and neither really shows any science to explain why?

  6. What are the best vegan sources if vitamin e? I’m struggling on 80/10/10 being vegan. Should I supplement or possibly with a whole foods mulivitamin. Are whole foods multivitamins ok?

  7. Dr. Gregor,
    My husband and I are both vegans who eat a HCLF diet. We have been tracking our nutrient intake via cronometer for several months now. One trend we have observed is that not only do we get more than enough protein and vitamin b12, but the only nutrient we lack in is vitamin e. We have not found much literature of Vitamin E deficiency being of any concern; however, it appears that if one is a vegan eating no added fats and onlya couple nuts a day, it is very difficult to obtain adequate amounts. Should we be concerned?

    1. Thanks for your post! A few nuts and seeds will cover your vitamin E for the day. Mangoes, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains also contain vitamin E. The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day. A 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds has like 12 mg. So you can see how concentrated the nuts and seeds are in vitamin E. You won’t need more than an ounce or so to obtain the RDA, so long as incorporating plenty of whole grains and veggies.

  8. From all the literature I have read any more than 500 IU of alpha-tocopherol will displace (sic) uptake of gamma-tocopherol, as gamma-tocopherol is a very potent anti-inflammatory and the other variants of vitamin E that would also be synergistic in well-being, and have not been part of these studies, it is not surprising that negative results have been obtained.

  9. Good God, I’ve just started taking this supplement for the menopause but now I am at a loss as to what to do with the vitamin E capsules! Can I apply them to my face?!

    1. You can squeeze them into your monounsaturated fat (Olive Oils) and polyunsaturated fat oils (Flax Oils) to prevent oxidation and free radicals (source: my Registered Dietitian College Professors).

  10. Over ten years ago when a Vitamin E study concluded potential harm, I wrote to the doctor who conducted the study. We volleyed back and forth and he finally admitted the synthetic, dl-alpha tocopherol was the type used in this major study. I expressed my anecdotal experience with d-alpha tocopherol as extremely positive for injury recovery, scar prevention, burn relief and blood thinning and suggested he redo the study with “real” Vitamin E. He declined. After my father had heart surgery, I had him take d-alpha tocopherol to assist in healing. The Cleveland Clinic couldn’t figure out why his blood was too thin. When I told them it might be the Vitamin E they agreed and insisted I take him off it. I asked why not take him off the more expensive blood thinners they had him on. They did not concur. Put real E on a burn within a few minutes and it’s fairly amazing. On a cut or incision, it heals much faster with minimal scarring. The recently “discovered” tocotrienol variety shows potentially even greater benefits with prevention of white matter injury from stroke. I wish someone would put real Vitamin E to the test! I do not find it at all surprising that E derived from petrochemicals is potentially hazardous and I’d bet real E is not only safe, but extremely beneficial.

  11. Hi,

    I’ve been unable to work this out for a long time: The recommended daily intake for vitamin e is 15 mg. I’m vegan, and according to my spreadsheet I’m getting enough of pretty much everything except for vitamin e, of which I only get about 8.33 mg per day. I have tried adding sunflower seeds to my muesli to boost my vitamin e intake but not only is that insufficient to get me to 15 mg unless I eat very large amounts but it also has a negative effect on my omega-3:omega-6 ratio. I have looked at taking vitamin e supplements, but all of the products I’ve found contain huge amounts of vitamin e, which massively exceed the RDA, and I’m wary of taking them. Does anyone have any advice for how to get 15 mg of vitamin e per day without messing up their omega-3:6 ratio? Or is there something I’m missing?

    Also, I have a related question about walnuts: I eat walnuts every day because they’re supposed to be healthy, but they also have a negative effect on my omega-3:6 ratio. How is it that they are considered healthy when they cause this issue?

    I hope someone can help me, particularly with the first question.

    Kind regards,


  12. Adrian,

    First let’s consider that vitamin E comes in 8 forms, 4 each of it’s two family members, tocopherols and tocotrienols. Then consider that as an oil soluble nutrient it will be stored by the body and eliminated over an extended timeframe.

    Most of the large stores carry a mixed E product that could be an used as an intermittent intake to maximize your vitamin E levels. Have you also considered checking your body levels via a test such as the Spectracell nutrient panel, which is reflective of your need, not a suggested RDA ?

    The walnuts: I’d challenge you to test your ratios given what your describing as your dietary intakes. And you also would get this information via the lab testing for confirmation. Keep in mind that the “ideal” 3:6 ration is both varied per person and is a range that will vary with the diet and the specific nutrients found in the foods, which vary seasonally, etc. And let’s not forget that there is far more benefits from the walnuts than just their oils. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/walnuts-and-artery-function/

    In moderation walnuts can be an excellent addition to your diet.

    Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger http://www.Centerofhealth.com

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for your response.

      I appreciate that the nutrient needs of each individual are unique, but I’m confused about how it can be expected that the RDA is ever met by anyone without supplementation.

      I’m only looking at alpha-tocopherol, which has an RDA of 15 mg.

      Here is how much alpha-tocopherol I get from each relevant item in my daily diet at the moment (I’ve replaced sunflower seeds with hemp seeds):
      Oats = 0.56 mg
      Flaxseeds = 0.033 mg
      Hemp seeds = 0.024 mg
      Cinnamon = 0.05 mg
      Banana = 0.099 mg
      Strawberries = 0.114 mg
      Blueberries = 0.09 mg
      Vitasoy = 1.687 mg
      Fruit (average) = 0.24 mg
      Tomato = 0.342 mg
      Red bell pepper = 0.926 mg
      Avocado = 2.08 mg
      Carrot = 0.574 mg
      Walnuts = 0.294 mg
      Sweet potato = 0.559 mg
      Broccoli = 0.499 mg
      Kale = 0.329 mg
      Purple cabbage = 0.035 mg
      Rocket/arugula = 0.034 mg

      That comes to an approximate total of 8.57 mg
      My daily caloric intake is approximately 2653.35 cal, which is about 147 cal under my preferred limit.

      So how can I possibly get 15 mg?

      The walnuts: My 3:6 ratio is 2.59 with 1/4 cup of raw walnuts per day. I consider a ratio of 4 to be the upper limit. So I’m doing fine, really. I just noticed that walnuts contain a lot of omega-6, so I wondered if they would be worth avoiding if I had a higher ratio and/or if I wanted to get it down further. But yeah, of course there are far more benefits from walnuts than just their oils, as you say. I guess maybe the “in moderation” caveat for walnuts might be an important one to convey to people.

  13. Hi,

    I am wondering how to get the daily DACH recommended 12mg Vitamin E (for woman) while keeping the Omega 3 and Omega 6 ratio 1:3 on a Whole Food Plant Based diet (no oils). (Comment: DACH = Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz = Germany, Austria, Switzerland)

    Please note, that I do not want to do any tests at the moment, I just seek for a guideline on which I can orientate, without supplements / oils.

    Any ideas?

    Thank you very much in advance!

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