Vitamin E // Tocopherol

Intake recommendations

The major problem in making recommendations for vitamin E is the dependence on the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake. Across Europe there are wide variations in PUFA consumption. Based on the strong relation between vitamin E requirements and PUFA, recommendations have to take into account the different intake of PUFAs in different population groups. Therefore the recommended intakes are given as the ratio milligram alpha-tocopherol equivalents (mg alpha-TE): 0.4-0.6 mg x g dietary PUFA (60).

However, the old unit for biological activity of vitamin E, ‘International Units’ (IU), is used sometimes (1.00 mg alpha-TE equals 1.49 I.U.).

In view of the difficulty in recommending the amount of vitamin E with the optimal effects on human metabolism, the recommendations for daily vitamin E intake for adults, expressed as milligram alpha-tocopherol equivalents (mg alpha-TE), differ in European countries:

 Country  Males: mg/day Females: mg/day
 Belgium (2000) 10 10
 France (2001) 12 12
 DACH* (2000) 15 12
 Italy (1996) > 8 > 8
 Netherlands (2000)  11.8 9.3
 Nordic countries (2014) 10 8
 Spain (1994-98) 12 12
 U.K. (1991) > 4 > 3

* Germany, Austria and Switzerland

According to EFSA’s newest recommendations, men should consume 13 mg/day α-tocopherol equivalents, while women 11 mg/day (62)

Based on the prevention of deficiency symptoms ─ rather than on health promotion and prevention of chronic disease ─ the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board has set recommended dietary allowance (RDA) values for vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) (2).

In the RDA, revised upward in 2'000, amounts of alpha-tocopherol are expressed in international units (IU) and milligrams (mg) of ‘RRR-alpha-tocopherol’ (also referred to as ’natural‘ or d-alpha-tocopherol); the form of vitamin E found in foods.

Life Stage   Age  Males: mg/day (IU/day) Females: mg/day (IU/day)
 Infants (AI) 0–6 months 4 mg (6 IU) 4 mg (6 IU)
 Infants (AI)  7–12 months    5 mg (7.5 IU)    5 mg (7.5 IU)
 Children   1–3 years 6 mg (9 IU) 6 mg (9 IU)
 Children  4–8 years     7 mg (10.5 IU)     7 mg (10.5 IU)
 Children 9–13 years    11 mg (16.5 IU)    11 mg (16.5 IU)
 Adolescents 14–18 years    15 mg (22.5 IU)    15 mg (22.5 IU)
 Adults 19 years and older    15 mg (22.5 IU)    15 mg (22.5 IU)
 Pregnancy all ages -    15 mg (22.5 IU)
 Breast-feeding all ages -    19 mg (28.5 IU)

Some scientists think that there exists credible evidence that taking at least 200 IU (134 mg) alpha-tocopherol daily may help protect adults from chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and some types of cancer. The amount of alpha-tocopherol required for such beneficial effects appears to be much greater than that which could be achieved through diet alone (61, 86)

For a detailed overview of recommended daily intakes (PRIs/RDAs) of vitamins and minerals for adults derived from different countries and organizations see PDF.

Authored by Dr Peter Engel in 2010, reviewed and updated by Dr Szabolcs Peter on 18.06.2017