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Are You Getting Enough Vitamin E?

What to eat to make sure you’re enjoying the benefits of this essential nutrient.

Jessica Peterson/Getty Images
Jessica Peterson/Getty Images,

by Sarah Mahoney

Well-Being
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Most people know that vitamin E is an important nutrient, but new research from Ohio State University finds that a third of Americans may not be getting as much E as they should. Current guidelines recommend 15 milligrams of vitamin E a day, and most of us consume just half that amount. Vitamin E protects cells in the body from oxidative damage, and is essential for immune function as well as healthy blood vessels.

Vitamin E protects cells in the body from oxidative damage, and is essential for immune function as well as healthy blood vessels.

Prof. Richard Bruno, Ohio State U

The study looked at people with metabolic syndrome, which affects about 35% of the U.S. population. Doctors define this troubling problem as having at least three out of five factors that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes: excess belly fat, high blood pressure, low "good" cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides and blood glucose. People with metabolic syndrome don’t absorb vitamin E in their foods as effectively as healthy people.

Absorption of E is helped by drinking milk, which study participants did. “What was unexpected was that bioavailability didn’t vary by milk types, whether whole milk, reduced fat or skim,” says Richard Bruno, professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University and lead author. (The National Dairy Council funded the research.)

That’s important calorie-saving news for the many people who take vitamin E supplements with whole milk. (Previous research indicated that most people absorb only 10 percent of vitamin E supplements consumed without fat.)

The overall takeaway for people with metabolic syndrome is to eat plenty of vitamin-E rich food, including nuts, oils and spinach. “A two-ounce handful of almonds or a serving of sunflower seeds will get you there,” say Bruno.