Vitamin E intake shown to be protective of blood plasma levels of omega-3 fatty acids

March 30, 2016

A study from Ireland has shown that intake of vitamin E raises blood plasma α-tocopherol levels, which in turn leads to raised blood levels of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), including the omega-3 fatty acids DHA, EPA and ALA.

Using data from the Irish National Adult Nutrition Survey (NANS), a cross-sectional dietary intake survey carried out on adults between 2008 to 2010, vitamin E and fatty acid intake levels were determined (1). They were able to show that intake of vitamin E raises blood plasma α-tocopherol levels, which in turn leads to raised blood levels of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), including the omega-3 fatty acids DHA, EPA and ALA. Existing users of PUFA-containing supplements were eliminated from the study. Fatty acid intakes were not significantly different across the plasma α-tocopherol quartiles. However, total PUFA percentages increased significantly with plasma α-tocopherol concentration (p˂0.001).

There was also a strong trend towards increasing DHA levels, but it did not achieve statistical significance. In summary, this study has demonstrated that mean daily vitamin E intakes were associated with the protection of PUFAs, including omega-3 fatty acids, from lipid peroxidation.

This conclusion is supported by a recent animal study in zebra fish that demonstrated that depleted body levels of α-tocopherol led to depletion of DHA levels in the brain (2).

It has been calculated that the basal human metabolic requirement of 3 to 4 mg/day α tocopherol needs to be increased to levels of 12.5 to 20 mg/day, just to balance out typical intakes of PUFAs in the typical Western diet(3). This essential role of vitamin E as an antioxidant has been recognized by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). After reviewing all available evidence, it concluded that “vitamin E contributes to the protection of cell constituents from oxidative damage” (4).


  1. 1. Zhao Y, Monahan FJ, McNulty B et al,; “Plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty status and its relationship with vitamin E intake and plasma level”; European Journal of Nutrition 2016 (published ahead of print)
  2. Choi J, Leonard SW, Kasper K et al.; “Novel function of Vitamin E in regualtion of zebrafish (Danio rerio) brain lysophospholipids discovered using lipidomics”; J, Lipid Res 2015; 56: 1182-1190.
  3.  Raederstorff D, Wyss A, Calder PC, Weber P and Eggersdorfer M; “Vitamin E function and requirements in relation to PUFA”; British Journal of Nutrition 2015, 114:1113-1122.
  4. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products; “Scientific opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to vitamin E and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage”, EFSA J 2010, 8:1816.