When it comes to eye health nutrition, vitamins A and C usually steal the spotlight. But let’s take a moment to understand vitamin E and its vision benefits.
Vitamin E is a safe and all-natural way to fight free radicals that may affect ocular health. It’s found in abundance in fortified cereals, nuts, and leafy greens. In other words, it’s difficult for your diet to be deficient in this essential vitamin.
But what is the daily recommended vitamin E dose? Do you need to take vitamin E capsules for eyesight? And can vitamin E cause toxicity?
In this post, we answer all these questions, review the eye health benefits of this vitamin, and look at the best sources of vitamin E. But first, let’s see how vitamin E first came to be known.
How Was Vitamin E Discovered?
Vitamin E was discovered nearly a hundred years ago. Since it was discovered after vitamins A, B, C, and D, it was naturally named vitamin E.
In 1922, Herbert Evans and Katharine Bishop found that an essential micronutrient was needed for normal reproduction in rats. This micronutrient was named "tocopherol" from the Greek “tokos” meaning “birth” and “pherein” meaning “to carry.” That is, “to carry a pregnancy.”
In 1935, Evans and Gladys Emerson first isolated the micronutrient in pure form. Three years later, Erhard Fernholz elucidated its structure and Paul Karrer synthesized it.
Nothing of great interest so far, since reproductive activity in pregnant rats was of little or no relevance to human health. It was only during the 1940s and 50s that the importance of vitamin E was fully appreciated.
During this period, vitamin E was found to be an essential nutrient for premature infants. Today, vitamin E is linked with eye health, neurological function, and the immune system.
Vitamin E Explained
Vitamin E is not just a single compound. It's a group of eight fat-soluble compounds with antioxidant effects. Of these, the human body uses only one, alpha-tocopherol.
Vitamin E is commonly found in plant oils, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. You can consume it as a dietary supplement, too. That’s because it plays many roles in your overall health.
From reducing oxidative damage to maintaining healthy skin, boosting immunity, and improving neurological function, taking vitamin E daily has several benefits.
In addition, it’s essential for your eye health, and this is something we’re going to talk about at length.
Vitamin E and Eye Health
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. It reduces oxidative damage by fighting free radicals. In simpler words, it protects your body tissues from damage and keeps them healthy.
Free radicals are oxygen atoms that damage healthy cells. They are unstable atoms that move through the body in search of electrons to make them more stable.
For this reason, taking vitamin E is important for your eyes, which are particularly susceptible to oxidative damage. Oxidation in your eyes can contribute to both age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
Plus, vitamin E also enhances the antioxidant ability of the carotenoid lutein. This, in turn, protects retinal cells from oxidative damage.
Vitamin E Eye Health Benefits
From reducing oxidative stress to lowering the risk of AMD and cataracts, here’s why vitamin E is an important vitamin for eyes.
Reduces Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between your body’s antioxidants and free radicals. Your eyes are especially prone to oxidative stress, caused mostly by the sun’s UV rays.
Oxidative stress can cause serious ocular diseases like cataracts and AMD. Vitamin E can protect your cells, including eye cells, from damaging free radicals.
Important: Exposure to cigarette smoke, environmental pollution, and industrial chemicals can increase the production of free radicals.
Lowers Risk of AMD
Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that damages the light-sensitive macula of your retina. This can blur your central vision and may even cause vision loss.
A seven-year study in people with AMD showed that taking vitamin E along with other everyday supplements reduced the risk of AMD progression by 25%.
Good to know: Vitamin E is already present in most foods you eat, like nuts, cereals, and leafy greens. So, if you eat balanced meals, you shouldn't worry about your diet lacking this essential vitamin for eye health.
May Prevent Cataracts
Cataracts are the oxidation and clouding of your eye’s natural lens. It generally develops as the tissues that make up the eye lens age. Several studies show that vitamin E may reduce the risk of cataract formation.
In one study, people taking vitamins C and E supplements had a 60% lowered risk of cataracts after 5 years. In another study, high lutein and vitamin E intake showed a lower risk of cataracts in women.
While these studies are promising, a third study showed that vitamin E and vision did not correlate in older men with cataracts. More research is needed to understand the correlation between vitamin E alpha tocopherol and cataracts.
Relieves Dry Eye Symptoms
Dry eye syndrome can make your eyes sore and gritty. You may also find it difficult to work in front of a computer for long hours or drive at night. But don’t worry as vitamin E is good for dry eye disease.
In a 2020 study, eye drops containing vitamin E along with other ingredients improved dry eye disease.
You can also include vitamin E sources like mangoes, avocados, spinach, and red pepper in your diet. This will give your eyes a much-needed boost of vitamin E antioxidants.
Blueberry Gummies are another way to soothe dry eyes. Packed with antioxidants and vitamins from blueberries, these gummies replenish your eyes during extended periods of screen use and support overall vision wellbeing.
Try out the delicious Blueberry Gummies.
Foods Rich in Vitamin E
Vitamin E is essential not just for our eyes, but also for our bodies to function normally. And since our bodies cannot make vitamin E, we have to consume it through vitamin E foods and supplements.
The good news is that vitamin E is widespread in plant as well as animal-based foods. So, add these dietary sources of vitamin E to your meals.
- Vitamin E nuts and seeds: Hazelnut, pine nut, peanut, almond, pistachio, pecan, and cashew
- Cooking oils: Sunflower, safflower, wheat germ, rice bran, canola, and soybean
- Vitamin E fruits: Mango, avocado, kiwifruit, papaya, olives (pickled), cranberry, black currant, blackberry, and raspberry
- Vitamin E vegetables: Red sweet pepper, turnip greens, butternut squash, broccoli, asparagus, and spinach
- Cereal grains: Wheat, barley, oats, and rye
- Animal-based foods: Goose meat, salmon, trout, crayfish, lobster, and cod
Daily Recommended Vitamin E Dose
The National Institutes of Health recommend the following daily vitamin E intake:
- 0 to 6 months: 4 mg
- 7 to 12 months: 5 mg
- 1 to 3 years: 6 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 7 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 11 mg
- 14 and above: 15 mg
- Pregnant individuals: 15 mg
- Lactating individuals: 19 mg
Important: If you smoke or are constantly exposed to industrial chemicals, you may need more foods high in vitamin E to help counteract extra free radicals.
Vitamin E Deficiency
Your body cannot function properly if your diet is deficient in vitamin E. You will have impaired reflexes, weak muscles, and difficulty walking.
That said, vitamin E deficiency is uncommon, especially in the Western world. It typically arises due to an underlying condition, like absorption disorder.
Low levels of vitamin E can cause:
- Vision deterioration
- Weakened light receptors in eyes
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling
- Coordination and walking difficulties
- Lowered immunity
Vitamin E Toxicity
Since vitamin E is fat-soluble, it can accumulate in your body. This may cause certain side effects and even toxicity in high quantities.
In a 2011 study, older men taking 67 mg (400 IU) of vitamin E per day showed a greater risk of developing prostate cancer. Vitamin E overdose can also interfere with your body’s ability to clot blood.
Signs and symptoms of vitamin E toxicity include:
- Intestinal cramps
- Weakness and fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Increased concentration of creatine in the urine
- Gonadal dysfunction
Important: The maximum vitamin E per day for adults should not exceed 1,000 mg. This includes both natural sources and synthetic supplements.
Should You Take a Vitamin E Supplement?
Sometimes, getting enough of all the vitamins and nutrients from your diet can be challenging. In such a case, taking a supplement might be the answer.
If you have less than 4 mg/L of vitamin E in your blood, you may require supplementation. But don’t just run to your local pharmacy. Be sure to discuss the benefits and risks of vitamin E supplementation with your general physician and eye doctor.
Also, read the supplement labels. Note the type of vitamin E it has, whether natural (d-alpha-tocopherol) or synthetic (dl-alpha-tocopherol.) See that the supplement doesn't contain unwanted fillers or dyes.
Don’t forget that vitamin E is not the only vitamin your eyes need to work well. Other antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, and anthocyanins are also critical for eye health.
SightC is a plant-based full-spectrum vision supplement that nourishes your eyes with antioxidants and phytonutrients from goji berries, turmeric, Cherokee rose, and other natural ingredients. Informed by over 30 years of clinical experience, it sustains vision in the digital age.
Learn more about SightC.
The Wrap Up
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Your body needs it for immune health, neurological functions, and vision health.
Since high vitamin E is readily available in the food you eat every day, supplements are often unnecessary. What’s more, consume too much of vitamin E and eyesight may turn blurry, along with other side effects.
The best approach is to eat a diet rich in cereals, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. That way, you will get all the vitamin E eye health benefits you need.