The best vitamin E capsules vary drastically from low-quality vitamin E.
When it comes to vitamin E, you should get all 8 natural kinds in your diet and in supplements when needed for the best health.
Natural forms of vitamin E are always better than synthetic vitamin E supplements. In this blog post, find out what vitamin E does, how to find healthy kinds of vitamin E supplements ranked for their use, and how to optimize your health with good amounts of vitamin E. Also, learn when it’s best to avoid vitamin E too.
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Table of Contents
Best Vitamin E for Heart Health
Healthy Origins Tocomin contains 100% of the daily value for tocopherols plus 312 mg of mixed tocopherols (full spectrum) which is sourced naturally from virgin palm oil. Most products do not contain the full spectrum of tocopherols, but this one does. A great buy for tocotrienols too and gets great reviews.
Carlson – E-Gems Elite contains 400 IU Vitamin E with Tocopherols and tocotrienols for heart health and optimal antioxidant content. This is a 2 month supply of all-natural vitamin E from a reputable company that meets rigorous quality standards and is GMP-certified. Among the best natural vitamin E supplements out there, the tocotrienols are naturally sourced from palm oil.
Integrative Therapeutics Full Tocopherol Vitamin E contains 400 IU of all-natural vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol and 50 mg of mixed tocopherols. This vitamin E is good for the heart because it is made from all-natural vitamin E with no fillers and no additives. Also, free of allergens including wheat, dairy, corn, and soy. Integrative Therapeutics is a very reputable company with GMP certification and also with Emerson Quality Partner status as an EQP Gold Partner. NSF certified as well and highly rated product.
Best for Prostate Health
Vital Nutrients E Succinate: if you are looking for vitamin E for prostate health, this is a good bet. Vitamin E succinate, also known as dry vitamin E, may help reduce prostate cancer risk and PSA levels may also be reduced with this form of vitamin E. While more clinical trials are needed to confirm this, the Vital Nutrients brand of vitamin E succinate is highly rated best vitamin e capsules and is free of all major allergens. *Note that this is the one vitamin E that I recommend that isn’t all-natural, but the company is reputable is also GMP certified, and is vegan for those looking for this feature.
Best Vitamin E Skin Oils
Health Priority Natural Products vitamin E oil is 100% natural and organic vitamin E for topical uses and is among the best vitamin E for the skin. Unlike most topical vitamin E, this truly is naturally sourced vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol. Contains Jojoba oil, Coconut oil, Vitamin E, and Avocado oil. Rated as the best vitamin E oil for scars.
Best Annatto Vitamin E
Designs for Health Annatto E Vitamin E in its tocotrienol form like this one is a much stronger antioxidant than alpha-tocopherol that is found in most supplements. This all-natural vitamin E is derived from annatto, the richest source of tocopherols of all foods. Containing 150 mg of mixed tocopherols including delta and gamma-tocopherol, this supplement is high quality and a good value.
Related: Leaky Gut Eczema Connections
Types of vitamin E
Vitamin E is made up of two classes of substances called tocopherols and tocotrienols.
When found naturally in foods and in natural supplements, tocopherols, and tocotrienols benefit our health. Studies show they both act as antioxidants to protect the brain, may improve diabetes symptoms, protect the heart, reduce age-related macular degeneration, reduce prostate cancer risk, and more.
Tip: it is best to get natural vitamin E from various food sources so that you get all types of vitamin E in your diet.
The eight kinds of vitamin E
Vitamin E is a critical nutrient for health with countless functions in the body. It is not one, but 8 vitamins that all have slightly different, but important roles in our health.
There are 4 types of tocopherols and 4 types of tocotrienols. We have more research about the tocopherols, and yet the tocotrienols hold a lot of powerful functions in our bodies.
- beta- tocopherol
- beta- tocotrienol
All 8 types of vitamin E have overlapping functions in the body, such as protecting the body from free radicals and oxidative stress.
They also all have slightly varying functions which make them unique and important.
This is one reason you should avoid synthetic vitamin E. Synthetic vitamin E only comes in one form that doesn’t function as well as natural vitamin E.
Safety of vitamin E supplements
Vitamin E is quite safe at moderate doses in adults from supplements and from foods. It is important to know that up to now, no optimal dosage has been determined for vitamin E.
The tolerable upper intake of vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol is set at 1000 mg per day. Higher doses can increase the risk of bleeding. You should not supplement high doses of vitamin E, especially if you are on blood thinner medications according to clinical trials [R].
An international unit (IU) of vitamin E is equal to 0.67 mg of vitamin E if you are confused by labels. For example, 400 IU of vitamin E equals 268 mg of vitamin E.
Synthetic vitamin E dangers
Natural vitamin E in all forms is very beneficial for the body.
If you go to the store and pick up the most common and inexpensive kind of vitamin E, it is not the healthy type of vitamin E. It is an artificial variety of alpha-tocopherol called dl-alpha-tocopherol.
Synthetic vitamin E is similar to natural vitamin E, but not similar enough in the body as well as it turns out. A research study found that synthetic vitamin E is also lost in the urine three times faster than natural vitamin E. Vitamin E levels may increase more in our cells with natural vitamin E than synthetic vitamin E as well.
This is because synthetic vitamin E displaces critically important gamma-tocopherol in the body. By displacing gamma-tocopherol, it may increase cancer risk.
Synthetic vitamin E is found in packaged foods. It is in your breakfast cereals, your standard multivitamins. It is in Ensure. Why? It’s cheap. But it is not benign.
Synthetic vitamin E may cause all kinds of havoc in the body, especially at high doses over 400 IU. It is linked to a significantly increased risk of:
- Hemorrhagic strokes
- Pancreatic cancer death
- Pneumonia in smokers
- Skin cancer
- Liver damage
- Increased oxidation
- Depletes beta-carotene
Tip: I recommend that all people avoid synthetic sources of vitamin E whenever possible.
Vitamin E deficiency rates
At least 90% of men and women fail to get enough vitamin E in their diet, even at the paltry RDI levels of 20 mg per day [R]. This data comes from huge numbers of people living in the United States, so it is likely an accurate representation of the problem.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that as many as 1 in 3 adults with diabetes or metabolic syndrome have vitamin E deficiency.
Thirty-three percent of obese and overweight adults have an undiagnosed deficiency of vitamin E. In the United States, over one-third of the population has been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and at least 30 percent are obese.
Millions of people living in the United States have vitamin E deficiency; this puts them at risk for further disease and illness. The symptoms of deficiency make it more likely for them to become MORE obese due to muscle aches and pains.
Vitamin E studies of vitamin E status prior to this had one major flaw: they measured blood levels, which are very inaccurate. This particular study used labeled vitamin E and measured elimination rates of this labeled vitamin E.
Overweight people likely need more vitamin E too because they have more fat tissue and fat is easily oxidized or damaged. Vitamin E helps reduce this damage, but the requirements go up with more volume and weight of fat.
Tip: if you suspect you have a vitamin E deficiency, you can supplement a moderate dose of supplemental vitamin E as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols in capsule form.
Vitamin E deficiency symptoms
Vitamin E deficiency can take years to set in, so symptoms can be really challenging to identify. According to the research journal Advances in Nutrition, symptoms of vitamin E deficiency can include:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle pain
- Vision impairment
- Illness or malaise
- Impaired vision
Other people notice more subtle issues, such as dry skin and hair, hormonal changes such as hot flashes, low energy, aches and pains, and a decrease in well-being.
Vitamin E deficiency causes
Diseases that increase the risk of vitamin E deficiency include:
- Digestive disorders
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Gallbladder disease
- Genetic conditions
- Metabolic syndrome
Drugs that rob the body of vitamin E include:
- Cholesterol medications
Tip: If you suffer from a chronic health condition or take some types of common medications, your odds of vitamin E deficiency are high.
Benefits of vitamin E
All 8 types of vitamin E have a common role: reducing oxidation damage in the body. This is like preventing oxygen damage to metal or preventing rust. All 8 types of vitamin E have subtle, but different roles too.
Antioxidants like vitamin E help protect the body from damaging free radicals that we encounter every day. For this reason, vitamin E plays a lot of roles in protecting the skin, and vitamin E good for hair is always going to be in its natural form.
Vitamin E may reduce eye damage from the oxidative ravages of diabetes, heart disease, cataracts, and more.
Vitamin E in its natural forms also helps regulate genes, and by doing so, is able to help control abnormal cell growth.
Collectively, when people have a high intake of vitamin E-rich foods, research shows a reduction in cardiovascular diseases consistently over time. Vitamin E-rich foods also reduce the risks of most chronic diseases.
As mentioned above, we can’t function optimally without all 8 types of vitamin E. They are all slightly different structures that take on subtle but important different roles.
Tip: The body is meant to have all kinds of vitamin E.
Benefits of tocotrienols
Most supplements contain vitamin E tocopherols. However, we need tocotrienols as well for ideal health.
As with many nutrients, tocotrienols have vast functions in the body. They have a unique molecular structure; it makes tocotrienols more flexible than tocopherols and allows easier entry through the cell membranes.
Tocotrienols may promote new artery formation after a stroke, reduce inflammatory compounds, improve insulin sensitivity, protect brain function, and even prevent bone loss. They likely improve the structure of the bone and the quality of bone tissue.
Tocotrienols may reduce cancer
Tocotrienols are likely more potent than alpha-tocopherol in reducing cancer risk.
The antioxidants in the family of tocotrienols show potential to:
- Increase cancer cell death
- Starve tumors of nutrients
- Reduce the spread of tumors
- Reduce the growth of tumor cells
- Reduce the initiation of cancer
Gamma-tocotrienol may even improve response to chemotherapy drugs and help treat prostate cancer.
Researchers found that delta-tocotrienol significantly improved their survival in animals with pancreatic cancer. Only 10% of animals in the control group survived versus 70% of those taking tocotrienols survived. This study presents a promising new anti-cancer option, although more research is needed.
Prostate cancer risk may be reduced by vitamin E, but only when both alpha and gamma-tocopherol levels are high.
Helps promote healthy skin
Vitamin E helps support healthy skin and clinical trials have found it beneficial for:
- atopic dermatitis
- other autoimmune skin conditions
- hair loss
Both topical vitamin E and vitamin E capsules are used for these conditions to varying degrees of benefit.
Tip: If you struggle with skin conditions, supplemental vitamin E and topical vitamin E might be worth a try.
Natural forms of vitamin E may reduce cardiovascular disease
Antioxidant-rich foods help protect heart health and foods rich in vitamin E are no exception. However, research consistently shows that synthetic vitamin E supplements don’t change the risk of heart disease according to the Cleveland Clinic.
- But, food sources of vitamin E may have a strong protective factor for heart health.
- Tocotrienols may also improve cholesterol profiles, reduce atherosclerotic lesions, lower blood glucose, normalize blood pressure, and inhibit new fat deposits in animal studies.
You will notice that food sources of tocotrienols vary, based on the type. See below for more information about food sources of tocotrienols.
Tip: make sure to eat a lot of foods that are rich in vitamin E. The following lists of foods rich in vitamin E are comprehensive and give you ways to get vitamin E from your diet.
Food sources of vitamin E
Foods that are rich in vitamin E vary a lot depending on the type of vitamin E. That is why I break down the types of vitamin E and the food sources of the types in this next section.
Alpha-tocotrienol in foods (per 100 g) [R]:
- Palm oil 205 mg/L
- Paprika 4 mg
- Chili powder 3 mg
- Wasabi 3 mg
As you can see, palm oil is the best source of vitamin e in alpha-tocotrienol form, and spices contribute a significant amount as well.
Gamma-tocotrienol in foods (per 100 mg) [R]:
- Annatto seeds: 140 mg
- Palm oil: 36 mg
- Rice bran: 23 mg
- Barley: 19 mg
- Wheat germ: 2 mg
Both alpha and gamma-tocotrienol-rich foods come primarily from spices and tropical oils like palm oil and coconut oil. Beta- and delta-tocotrienol-rich foods are from similar foods: tropical oils, spices, and small amounts in grains, but a fair amount in rice bran.
*Of note, palm oil is linked to deforestation. Look for zero-deforestation palm oils.
Commonly known food sources of tocopherols contain little to no tocotrienols.
Annatto seed is by far the richest source of gamma-tocotrienol. It is difficult to find (but oh so delicious!). It is used in southern Mexico and Latin American cuisine and has a citrus-type flavor. I have found it online for purchase.
Tip: spice up your foods and add annatto and zero-deforestation palm oils to your diet to get more natural tocotrienols. People have to go out of their way to find foods rich in tocotrienols. For this reason, I recommend supplementing the diet with natural and mixed-tocotrienols if you can’t see yourself regularly eating the foods listed above.
Alpha-tocopherol is the most researched vitamin E form because it can be identified in the blood. The other forms are more likely to be stored and used in tissues.
Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is bad. It increases the likelihood that LDL cholesterol becomes deposited in the arterial wall. Natural alpha-tocopherol prevents oxidation of LDL in humans.
Alpha-tocopherol-rich foods are primarily from plant seeds. Notice wheat germ. It would take a lot of wheat germ by volume to get to 100 g.
Alpha-tocopherol content of foods (per 100 g):
- Wheat germ: 149 mg
- Peanut butter: 47 mg
- Chili powder: 38 mg
- Sunflower seeds: 36 mg
- Almonds: 26 mg
- Hazelnuts: 18 mg
Other foods like chia, flax, and hemp are good sources of alpha-tocopherol too.
Beta-Tocopherol in foods (per 100 g):
Poppy seeds: 8.3 mg
Wocas seeds: 6.5 mg
Sunflower seeds: 1.4 mg
Amaranth: 1 mg
Soybean oil: 0.9 mg
Arepa (cornmeal) bread: 15 mg
The food sources of delta-tocopherol are very similar to alpha-tocopherol so refer to the above chart.
I don’t list the Recommended Dietary Allowance here because no optimal dosage has yet been established for vitamin E.
Your optimal dose is going to vary from my optimal dose. This depends on exposure to pollutants, toxins, body weight, diet, and more. This rule also applies to all types of vitamin E.
Gamma-Tocopherol in foods (per 100 g):
- Pumpkin seeds: 35 mg
- Flaxseed oil: 33 mg
- Walnuts: 28 mg
- Pecans: 24 mg
- Pistachios 22 mg
How to get enough vitamin E
The best way to get vitamin E in your diet is to focus on getting daily food sources that are rich in various kinds of vitamin E. However, as outlined above, most people certainly are low in vitamin E and may benefit from supplementation.
When choosing a vitamin E supplement, make sure you are getting natural sources.
Also, make sure you are getting a blend of natural tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Some people are concerned that taking natural tocopherols and tocotrienols together may compete with one another. For example, animal studies show that alpha-tocopherol crowds out tocotrienols at one type of receptor in the body.
However, it isn’t clear if this is meaningful because the body may be able to transport vitamin E without this receptor at all. Foods contain a mix of tocopherols and tocotrienols, so the idea of taking them together isn’t really a concern; nature doesn’t usually mess it up.
Vitamin E research flaws
The research world often likes to treat nutrients like pharmaceuticals: give a LOT of a single kind. This is inherently wrong. Nutrients work in a symbiotic, complex relationship.
We often see confusion and mixed messages about foods, nutrients, and supplements in the media.
While the design of pharmaceutical drug trials has its own inherent problems for humans, largely because we are unique individuals, applying this same design to nutrients can be disastrous.
There are no better examples of this than the nutrient vitamin E.
Research manipulates this class of nutrients into something far removed from nature and gives massive doses, often of synthetic vitamin E, or dl-alpha-tocopherol, to patients.
This doesn’t work for nourishing our bodies.
- Synthetic vitamins should be avoided. This includes dl-alpha-tocopherol or dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate.
- The best natural vitamin E supplement brands are going to be derived from foods.
- Always choose vitamin E with a blend of natural tocopherols and tocotrienols.
- Avoid high doses of vitamin E.
- Nutrients always work better when you have a balance of all nutrients in your body.
- Vitamin E always works better when you have adequate vitamin C, D, K, and an antioxidant-rich diet
Always check with your healthcare provider before adding new supplements to your regimen. Certain metabolic conditions or digestive surgeries may make it so you require high doses of vitamin E.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.