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Vitamin E (tocopherol)

If you have been feeling lethargic and irritable and have had a lower sex drive than normal it may be that you are not getting enough vitamin E

Sunflower seeds and a sunflower head
Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E

RDA is 10 mg.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects you from free radical attack. It is easily destroyed by milling, cooking or freezing, and by storage and exposure to light and air.

Natural vitamin E is at least twice as good as the synthetic form. Look for the word "natural" on supplement labels. If it says dl-alpha tocopherol, it is synthetic vitamin E. Natural forms are d-alpha tocopherol.

Where do you get vitamin E?

It is found in many foods, such as cod liver oil, sunflower olive oils; nuts, beans; bananas, apples, lettuce, spinach, onions, Brussels sprouts, prawns and salmon.


It protects from a wide range of conditions associated with ageing, including heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers. It helps fertility, stamina and endurance and boosts your immune system against infections.

Too much vitamin E

Toxic reactions are unlikely as the body gets rid of excess. Doses of at least 800 mg daily are considered safe. Higher doses might cause nausea, wind and diarrhoea. Check with your doctor if you take insulin or anti-coagulant drugs or if you have high blood pressure.

Too little vitamin E

Lack of vitamin E is uncommon in healthy people, but many need more for optimum nutrition. Deficiency symptoms include slow wound healing, lack of energy, lethargy, poor concentration, irritability, low sex drive and muscle weakness.

Nutritionists recommend a daily intake of at least 100 mg, and usually 200 mg or more. Sometimes the strength is given in “units”. (200 units = 134 mg of vitamin E.)

Vitamin E supplements

Vitamin E supplements do not reverse damage already done, but lower the risk of possible future problems. Taking other antioxidants at the same time makes vitamin E more effective.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.