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Available in supplement form as well as in food, vitamin E is used for treating and preventing a number of different conditions. As an antioxidant, the fat-soluble vitamin helps prevent the formation of free radicals (which play a role in age-related conditions like cancer and heart disease). There are eight different types of vitamin E, some of which are more active than others. Nausea, fatigue, and headaches are potential side effects of the supplement.

What Is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best known for its antioxidant activity. There has been much interest in supplementing with it to treat and prevent a wide variety of conditions. In recent years, however, there has been some concern that high doses of the supplement may actually cause more harm than good.
 
(Click Benefits of Vitamin E for more information on what it is used for.)
 

How Does Vitamin E Work?

Many of the effects of vitamin E can be attributed to its antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, it helps prevent the formation of free radicals, damaging molecules or atoms that can start a chain reaction of cellular damage. Free radicals play a role in various age-related conditions, such as cancer and heart disease.
 
There are eight different types of vitamin E, some of which are more active than others. The most active form is known as alpha-tocopherol, and there are two different forms of alpha-tocopherol. The natural form (which occurs in foods) is known as d-alpha-tocopherol or RRR-alpha-tocopherol. The synthetic (manufactured) form is known as dl-alpha-tocopherol or all-rac-alpha-tocopherol. Supplements may contain either or both types of alpha-tocopherol. The natural form is said to be about twice as active as the synthetic form.
 
Some people think that natural vitamin E is better for various uses compared to synthetic, but research has not supported such claims.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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