Vitamin E Deficiency Is Rare, but Here's How to Know If You're at Risk

We all want to make sure we're getting enough vitamins and minerals in our diets, but it can be a bit intimidating at times when there are dozens of these nutrients to consider. Take vitamin E, for instance. While it may not carry the same clout as other vitamins (like C or D), this important nutrient acts as an antioxidant to help ward off cell damage in the body and support nerve, skin, and bone health, explains Candace Pumper, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. It's not exactly something you want to leave out of your diet.

Vitamin E can be found naturally in foods such as sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, and dark green leafy veggies like spinach and broccoli. "Foods can also be fortified with vitamin E, including some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and margarines," Pumper tells POPSUGAR. But while this means that most people are able to get enough vitamin E through their diets to avoid a true deficiency, some health conditions can make it more difficult for the body to absorb vitamin E properly. Read on to learn more about what causes vitamin E deficiency, its symptoms, and treatment options.

What Causes Vitamin E Deficiency?

Although there are plenty of vitamin E-rich foods out there, Pumper says that most Americans aren't getting the recommended daily allowance of 15 milligrams, as defined by the US National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board. That said, vitamin E deficiency that results in adverse effects is still very rare in humans, with a few exceptions.

Niket Sonpal, MD, an internal medicine physician and assistant professor at Touro College of Medicine, notes that people whose bodies struggle to absorb nutrients may experience vitamin E deficiency. "It occasionally occurs in individuals with severe protein malnutrition, pancreatic issues, or problems with their small intestine like Crohn's or celiac disease," Dr. Sonpal tells POPSUGAR. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of vitamin E deficiency have not been reported in healthy people who were simply getting too little vitamin E from their diets.

Vitamin E Deficiency Symptoms

Because vitamin E primarily supports cell, bone, and nerve health, Pumper explains that a deficiency can cause nerve and muscle damage, which could result in the following symptoms:

  • Loss of body movement control
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of coordination
  • Weakened immunity

How to Treat Vitamin E Deficiency

You might think that grabbing a vitamin E supplement would be the quickest way to ensure you're hitting your daily intake, but you shouldn't supplement without consulting your doctor, who may actually recommend other sources of vitamin E first. "Food is preferable to supplementation for deficiency," Pumper says. "I am a strong advocate of focusing on the food-first strategy, opting for natural sources of vitamin E when possible."

However, if you're experiencing any alarming symptoms, you shouldn't simply start munching on more sunflower seeds, either. It's important that you seek medical attention. "If you are truly deficient and are showing symptoms, then you should see a doctor to be evaluated and get treated," Dr. Sonpal explains. "A daily over-the-counter supplement may not be enough."