Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a popular over the counter vitamin supplement that has many uses. But just like any medication and supplement, there are a few things you should be aware of before supplementing.

Discovery of vitamin E

Vitamin E was discovered in 1922 by Bishop and Evans. However, it wasn’t until the 1940s when the use of vitamin E in the role of nutrition in premature infants was investigated. This led to examining intestinal absorption of vitamin E in premature infants to prevent intracranial hemorrhage, pulmonary oxygen toxicity, hemolysis and more. Since that time, the use of vitamin E in premature infants has helped save many lives.

There are eight different natural forms of vitamin E which can be subdivided into two separate groups: the tocopherols and the tocotrienols. Both are plant based and fat soluble and each of these have four separate analogues. Each analogue has a different potency and effect on health.

Tocopherols are the saturated form of vitamin E and contain the analogues alpha, beta, delta, and gamma. This form of vitamin E is the major source in the U.S. diet.

Food sources of tocopherols include oils derived from walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower oil.

Tocotrienols are the unsaturated form of vitamin E and contain same name but different types of analogues- alpha beta, delta and gamma.

Food sources of tocotrienols are palm and rice bran oil, wheat germ, barley, oats, grapefruit seed oil, and annatto oil.

Vitamin E

Synthetic vitamin E

Synthetic forms of vitamin E contain both tocopherol and tocotrienols and include the four analogs of each. However there is evidence to suggest that synthetic E isn’t  absorbed by the body as efficiently as natural forms.

How to tell if your vitamin E supplement is synthetic or natural

Most vitamin E supplements are derived from natural sources. The natural (D-α-tocopherol) contains the prefix “D”, the synthetic form (DL-α-tocopherol acetate) contains the prefix “DL”.

Vitamin E deficiency


Vitamin E deficiency is rare; however some causes are:

  • Some genetic disorders that can cause malabsorption of dietary fats
  • Cystic fibrosis patients have trouble absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins- ADEK
  • Malnutrition
  • Short-bowel syndrome patients
  • Surgical resection
  • Mesenteric vascular thrombosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • liver disease
  • Cigarette smoking depletes vitamin E

Symptoms vitamin E deficiency

  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Retinopathy

Consult with your care provider before supplementing with vitamin E

Vitamin E toxicity

Vitamin E toxicity occurs by supplementation, not diet alone. Symptoms include excessive bleeding, nausea, vomiting and muscle weakness. If toxicity is suspected, discontinuation of vitamin E and administration of vitamin K may be initiated by your care provider.

Drug interactions and cautions when supplementing with Vitamin E

  • Vitamin E inhibits platelet aggregation and can disrupt vitamin K1 clotting. Use with caution when on anticoagulation and antiplatelet medications as there is the potential risk of bleeding when taken together.
  • Niacin: vitamin E supplementation can reduce effects of niacin

Medical conditions that may be contraindicated with vitamin E supplementation

  • History heart attack or stroke
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Retinitis pigmentosa
  • Kidney disease
  • Anemia
  • Liver disease

- Brooke Lounsbury, RN

Medical Content Writer

Lifesaving Medications

Everyone should be empowered to care for themselves and their loved ones during the unexpected.

Recent Posts

Keeping you informed and safe.

Join Our Newsletter

Our mission is to help you be more medically prepared. Join our newsletter and follow us on social media for health and safety tips each week!

KidCase now has Rx Dexamethasone (for Croup and Asthma) added at no extra cost!