Vitamin E helps the immune system, fortifies cell membranes, and also acts as an antioxidant. It is present in different foods, and artificial supplements are also available. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin E depends on age and sex. Research into the health benefits or risks of ingesting high levels of the vitamin are ongoing.
Each country's health system has its own view on the appropriate level of vitamin E dosage. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States recommends a different vitamin E dosage to the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, for example. According to the NIH, as of July 2011, an adult woman or an adult man should take in 15 milligrams of vitamin E per day. Breast-feeding women, according to the NIH, should take in 19 mg per day. The NIH states that kids under the age of 14 require less vitamin E, from 11 mg and under.
In contrast to the NIH recommendations, the NHS in the U.K., as of July 2011, recommends a daily vitamin E dosage of only 4 mg for a man and 3 mg for a woman. This level of vitamin is comparable to the dose that the NIH states is sufficient for an infant of up to six months of age. This disparity stems from different interpretations of the requirements from the relevant health authorities' medical advisors and indicates that the true daily requirement is not yet known precisely.
Further confusing the daily requirement figures is the fact that vitamin E is fat soluble. This means that the body can store surplus vitamin E, which can be drawn on when the diet on a particular day does not include a source of the vitamin. Therefore, a person does not need to eat vitamin E-containing food every day.
According to both the NIH and the NHS, the best method of getting your recommended daily allowance of the vitamin is to eat foods that contain the substance. These foods include vegetable oils from plants such as corn, olives, or soybeans. Nuts and seeds also provide some vitamin E, and low levels are present in some fruits and vegetables such as kiwi and broccoli.
The NHS states that a person who eats a varied diet should get enough of the vitamin for good health, but people who wish to take supplements should not exceed a 540 mg vitamin E dosage daily. The NIH also states that the average food intake of a typical American probably includes enough of the substance for health but that people on low-fat diets may be unintentionally reducing their intake of the vitamin. Vitamin E deficiency, however, is not a common occurrence among the general American public. The NIH upper limit for adults aged 19 years and over is 1,000 mg, which is nearly twice that of the NHS upper limits.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E may be an interesting substance for health-conscious people. Despite the claims of healthfulness of high dosages of the substance, both the NHS and the NIH do not recommend taking high levels of the vitamin as the research into cardiac health and other conditions such as cancer or eye problems are generally inconclusive. Some studies have shown a slight benefit for certain conditions, such as cognitive decline in elderly people, but have also thrown up unwanted risks such as a higher risk of falls. High levels of supplementation with the vitamin can also increase the risk of blood conditions such as hemorrhage and adverse interactions with some medications.