The Forgotten Bone Nutrients: Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that primarily functions as an antioxidant—protecting your body’s cells (and bones!) from the damaging effects of free radicals, slowing the aging process, and minimizing your risk for certain diseases. The benefits of vitamin E don’t stop there… It has also been shown to play an important role in maintaining your immune system, healthy nerves, and preventing eye disease.

While eight forms of the vitamin exist, your body relies on α-tocopherol to meet your daily vitamin E requirement. Excess α-tocopherol is stored in fatty tissue for later use, whereas the other forms of vitamin E are rapidly metabolized by the body and exist in only very small amounts.

How Much Vitamin E Do You Need?

Researchers have found that the typical western diet tends to be quite low in vitamin E… with over 90% of men and women in the United States not consuming the recommended amount!

The RDA of vitamin E for both men and women is 15 mg each day. The safe “upper limit” for vitamin E intake is 1000 mg daily. Vitamin E doses higher than 1000 mg may be recommended by your doctor to help manage certain medical conditions, but should be avoided by the by most people due to the risk of the vitamin thinning your blood at these levels.

Vitamin E Deficiency Is Associated With These Diseases

  • Osteoporosis
  • Impaired Balance and Coordination
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Eye Damage

Vitamin E and Your Bones

Many of vitamin E’s bone health benefits are theoretical at this point. To summarize what we know so far… We know that vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, and that antioxidants are required to protect our bones from the harmful effects of free radicals. We have at least established a basis for HOW vitamin E could protect our bones. The tough part is proving it through experiments. Only a few studies have been performed evaluating the relationship between vitamin E and bone health, and the results so far have been mixed.

  • One study compared vitamin E levels to bone density in 3202 Chinese men and women between the ages of 40 and 75 years old. In women, increased vitamin E levels were associated with increased bone density at the spine and hip. However, the same relationship was not seen in men.
  • A second study evaluated the effect of supplemented vitamin E on markers of bone growth and bone breakdown. Those with higher levels of vitamin E had decreased bone growth markers, and no change to bone breakdown markers. This study concluded there was no obvious relationship between vitamin E and bone health.

A number of other studies involving both humans and mice have been equally split in their results. For now, I think we can all agree that more studies are needed before vitamin E can be fully supported as an important part of osteoporosis treatment. If you are one of the 90% that is not getting the recommended daily amount of vitamin E, you should find ways to improve your daily intake.

How Can You Get More Vitamin E Through Your Diet?

Vitamin E is found in a variety of plant sources, including vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables. Take a look at this list to find ways to improve your daily intake of vitamin E.

  • Sunflower Seed Kernels (1 ounce): 7.4 mg
  • Almonds (1 ounce): 7.3 mg
  • Sunflower Oil (1 tablespoon): 5.6 mg
  • Sweet Potato (1 cup): 4.2 mg
  • Tomato Sauce (1 can): 3.5 mg
  • Peanut Butter (2 tablespoons): 3.2 mg
  • Cranberry Juice (1 cup): 3.0 mg
  • Canola Oil (1 tablespoon): 2.4 mg
  • Peanuts (1 ounce): 2.4 mg
  • Olive Oil (1 tablespoon): 1.9 mg
  • Spinach (1/2 cup): 1.9 mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup): 1.1 mg