7 Health Benefits of Vitamin E and How You Can Use It To Improve Immune System Function

Vitamin E is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant that plays an important role in many body functions. From immune system health to vision and nerve cell communication, vitamin E is a critical nutrient to improve health and well-being. But what are the health benefits of vitamin E and how else does it affect the function of your body?

What are the Health Benefits of Vitamin E?

healthy vitamin e fruits vegetables with chalkboard sign and vitamin e words written

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, which means that it helps protect cells from free radical damage. The body produces free radicals when it converts food into energy, but you can also be exposed to free radicals from air pollution, cigarette smoke and ultraviolet light.

In addition to fighting free radicals, vitamin E also:

  • Expands blood vessels to prevent clots and improve blood flow
  • Helps with cell communication to carry out important body functions

Although more research is needed, vitamin E may play a role in heart health, cancer prevention, cognitive health and eye health.

Improve Immune Function

One of the most obvious and well-documented health benefits of vitamin E is enhanced immune response.

Vitamin E plays a vital role in immune system health and response. It increases the number of T cells, or white blood cells, for an improved immune response.

There are two main types of white blood cells:

  • Regulatory: These white blood cells manage the immune system’s response to foreign bodies and helps prevent autoimmune diseases.
  • Cytotoxic: These cells attach to and kill cells infected by viruses and bacteria.

Having enough vitamin E can help improve immune system health while preventing autoimmune conditions.

Why You Need Vitamin E for Immune System Health

Studies have linked low vitamin E levels with higher rates of infection and mortality in animals. Higher-than-recommend intake, on the other hand, has been linked to enhanced immune system function. In fact, vitamin E is found in higher concentrations in immune system cells than other blood cells. 

Vitamin E’s role in immune function is complex. This potent antioxidant has a direct effect on the integrity of T cell membranes, cell division and communication, and inflammation.

Research has also shown that low levels of vitamin E can slow the immune response, but supplementation can reverse these effects.  To fight off bacteria, viruses and disease, the body needs vitamin E for immune system health. (Find out more about how to improve immune system naturally)

May Improve Eye Health

Vitamin E plays an important role in eye health due to its antioxidant properties. It’s believed to help protect eye cells from free radicals, which can damage healthy eye tissue.

Free radicals can wreak havoc on your body, and that includes your eyes. When free radicals damage the oval-shaped area of the eye (called the macula), it can cause macular dysfunction. Eventually, free radical damage can lead to cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Severe cases can cause vision loss.

Vitamin E can help prevent vision loss caused by macular dysfunction and other conditions. In two clinical trials with 4,800 participants, researchers studied vitamin E’s effects on eye health. The study found that the combination of vitamin E and other nutrients (zinc oxide, copper, beta-carotene and vitamin C) reduced the risk of vision loss by 19%. It also reduced the progression of macular dysfunction.

May Protect Nervous System Health

Vitamin E plays an important role in the communication between nerve cells in the brain and body.

Vitamin E for Alzheimer's

Researchers believe that Vitamin E’s ability to fight free radicals may help prevent cognitive decline. There is some evidence that vitamin E can slow the progression of memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In another study involving patients with Alzheimer’s disease, vitamin E supplementation led to delayed functional deterioration and the need for institutionalized care. Another study found that vitamin E was linked to less cognitive decline over three years. More research is needed to determine whether it can reverse symptoms.

Vitamin E for Peripheral Neuropathy

Vitamin E can also be used in the treatment of drug-induced peripheral neuropathy. Research shows that vitamin E may slow the destruction of nerve cell coatings caused by certain drugs, including those used in chemotherapy and antiretrovirals.

Vitamin E for Ataxia

Ataxia, which is a movement disorder caused by severely low vitamin E levels, can also be improved with vitamin E supplements.

May Slow the Cell Aging Process

Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties help prevent free radicals from damaging cells. Free radical damage can eventually lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The relationship between free radical damage and cellular aging is still unclear. What researchers do know is that free radicals attach to cells and damage the DNA and protein inside.

Vitamin E’s antioxidant effects neutralize this action to help protect cells. Research from 2018 found that low vitamin E consumption was associated with increased cellular aging.

May Improve Blood Vessel Health

Vitamin E protects red blood cells from oxidative damage and helps expand blood vessels to reduce the risk of blood clots.

According to research, vitamin E may play a role in preventing blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or venous thromboembolism (VTE). Blood clotting can be beneficial when it slows bleeding after an injury, but it can also be a problem when clots spread to the heart or lungs. When this happens, it can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Vitamin E’s ability to expand the blood vessels can help prevent this from happening. In one 2013 study, smokers took vitamin E daily. The study found that quitting smoking and taking vitamin E reduced risk of cardiovascular disease by 19%. Those who took vitamin E supplements had less inflammation and better vascular function compared to participants who took a placebo.

Another study involving 90,000 nurses found that rates of heart disease were 30-40% lower in participants with the highest vitamin E intakes (most of which came from supplements).

May Slow the Progression of Kidney or Liver Disease

Vitamin E cannot prevent or treat kidney and liver disease, but it may help slow their progression. One study found that vitamin E supplements slowed the rate of fibrosis in participants with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Vitamin E has virtually no effect on alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, it may aid in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B.

May Improve Skin Health

Vitamin E may help improve skin health. It’s found in sebum produced by the oil glands in your skin.

The antioxidant properties of vitamin E help fight free radicals that cause wrinkles and sunspots. It also absorbs UVB light. When combined with vitamin C, vitamin E may help increase the amount of time it takes for the skin to burn. It should not replace your sunscreen, but taking vitamin E supplements may make your sunscreen more effective.

Vitamin E protects cells to keep skin moisturized and healthy. Its ability to fight free radicals also helps prevent inflammation that can cause dermatitis.

How Does a Vitamin E Deficiency Affect the Body?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that the body needs fat to absorb it. This essential vitamin is stored primarily in the liver before it’s released into the blood stream.

Signs and symptoms of low vitamin E include:

Immune System Issues

Low levels of vitamin E can have a negative effect on your immune function. There is some evidence that a deficiency can hinder immune system cells.

Muscle Weakness

Vitamin E is crucial to the function of the central nervous system. It’s one of the body’s most important antioxidants. Without it, free radical damage can lead to muscle weakness.

Failing Eyesight

Low vitamin E can damage light receptors in the eyes, which can eventually cause vision loss. This vitamin’s antioxidant properties fight free radicals that damage cells in the eyes.

Numbness and Tingling

A vitamin E deficiency can lead to peripheral neuropathy, which is caused by damage to the nerve fibers. This makes it harder for nerves to send signals and reduces sensations.

Difficulty Walking

One of the most common signs of vitamin E deficiency is difficulty walking and coordination problems. Low levels of this vitamin can cause damage to certain neurons and make it harder for them to send signals.

How Much Vitamin E Do You Need?

One of the most vital things to know when learning how to improve immune system health is the correct dosage for the vitamins you're taking. The amount of vitamin E needed for healthy immune system function (and overall health) depends on your age.

Recommended daily amounts are as follows:

  • 0-6 months of age: 4 mg
  • 7-12 months of age: 5 mg
  • 1-3 years of age: 6 mg
  • 4-8 years of age: 7 mg
  • 9-13 years of age: 11 mg
  • 14-18 years of age: 15 mg
  • Adults and pregnant women: 15 mg
  • Breastfeeding women: 19 mg

Vitamin E deficiency is relatively rare, but diseases that impact fat absorption, such as liver disease or cystic fibrosis, can lead to a deficiency over time. Consuming slightly more than the recommended daily amount has also been shown to improve immune function.

Top Sources of Vitamin E

Many foods are naturally rich in vitamin E and can help prevent a deficiency. Eating a diet that includes a variety of foods can help ensure that you get enough of this important vitamin.

Food sources of vitamin E include:

  • Whole nuts and seeds, including almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds
  • Wheat germ oil (provides 135% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E)
  • Nut and seed oils, including sunflower oil and almond oil
  • Green vegetables, including broccoli and spinach
  • Some fruits, including mamey sapote, mango and kiwi
  • Foods that are fortified with vitamin E

One of the simplest ways to prevent a deficiency of this vitamin is to take vitamin E immune system supplements. Supplementation can help keep the immune system strong and healthy all throughout life.

Final Thoughts

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in many body functions. The many health benefits of vitamin E, its ability to fight free radicals, and improve immune system health make it an invaluable tool to improving and maintaining your health.

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