Hypervitaminosis: Are Vitamin E Supplements Safe?

Considering taking a Vitamin E supplement? Whether you’re looking to improve your vision and the health of your blood, brain or skin, incorporating a Vitamin E supplement into your daily routine is a simple way to supplement if you’re not getting enough of this vital nutrient. Most Americans don’t get the recommended amount of Vitamin E they need from diet alone, so a supplement can be helpful for a variety of people.

While oral use of Vitamin E is generally considered safe, there is a risk of overdose in exceptional circumstances. A Vitamin E overdose is called hypervitaminosis, and it can be fatal in very rare cases. It’s always best to consult with a physician before taking a Vitamin E supplement, and to be extremely careful in dosing accordingly. Here’s what every person should know before taking a Vitamin E supplement.

What is hypervitaminosis?

Hypervitaminosis E is essentially Vitamin E toxicity. It occurs when too much Vitamin E enters the body from the food you eat or, much more commonly, from supplement overdose. Hypervitaminosis is caused when Vitamin E builds up beyond the level of your body to process and store it safely.

The recommended Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin E is 15mg each day and the upper limit, or the amount most people can safely tolerate each day, is 1,000mg. This extreme range may seem like a wide margin of error, but it’s important to remember that it’s dependent on each person’s adipose (fat) tissue content. Individuals with more fatty tissue can tolerate more Vitamin E, while those with less fat content will see adverse side effects well-below the maximum 1,000mg threshold. As a result, hypervitaminosis E occurs at varying levels.

What is Vitamin E deficiency?

The most common reason people supplement Vitamin E is due to deficiency. While Vitamin E deficiency is very rare in healthy people, it can occur especially for people who have certain diseases that affect their ability to digest or absorb fat. These include cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease and other rare genetic diseases.

Vitamin E deficiency often increases the fragility of red blood cells and causes neurons to degenerate. It can cause nerve and muscle damage, leading to loss of feeling in arms and legs (called neuropathy), loss of body movement control, vision problems and more. Vitamin E deficiency and a weakened immune system go hand in hand, so reduced immunity is another symptom to look for.

Treatment of Vitamin E deficiency can include adjustments to diet, but more commonly, a doctor will recommend a supplement. You can determine whether you’re receiving inadequate Vitamin E intake or if a preexisting condition is affecting your Vitamin E levels by measuring tocopherol levels in your body to confirm the diagnosis. This also serves to help a doctor prescribe the correct amount of Vitamin E, to avoid skewing too far toward hypervitaminosis.

What happens if you take too much Vitamin E?

Excessive Vitamin E intake can cause a whole host of health complications, the worst of which is fatal bleeding. Too much Vitamin E reduces the bloods ability to form clots, increasing risk of bleeding and of serious bleeding in the brain, also known as a hemorrhagic stroke. As long as your intake remains well-below the upper limit of 1,000 mg per day for adults, you shouldn’t need to worry about an overdose. There are also many other warning signs that will crop up well in advance of fatal bleeding, which should alert you to a problem.

If you are experiencing hypervitaminosis E, the first course of treatment includes discontinuing a Vitamin E supplement. For those experiencing more serious complications, medical intervention may be necessary. Monitor symptoms and reach out to a healthcare provider. If you notice a marked increase in muscle fatigue, weakness and nausea, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to prevent more serious symptoms including bleeding.

It should be noted that mild symptoms appear relatively quickly in the event of excess Vitamin E consumption. A person would need to ignore these symptoms for an extended period of time to reach fata levels of the vitamin.

Safety comes from physician input

Although Vitamin E is an essential nutrient, there is such a thing as getting too much of it. It’s easier to overdose on Vitamin E if you’re taking it as a supplement. As with any supplement, you shouldn’t take them without some input from your doctor. Your doctor will give you a recommended dosage that addresses your body’s specific Vitamin E needs. As long as you use as directed, you’ll generally never need to worry about taking too much Vitamin E.

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