Vitamin E 

Updated: Mar 26, 2014
  • Author: Edward Charbek, MD; Chief Editor: Eric B Staros, MD  more...
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Reference Range

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and free-radical scavenger in lipophilic environments. Vitamin E requires bile for absorption, and 25% of it is absorbed orally. The vitamin is stored in adipose tissue, liver, and muscle.

The reference range of vitamin E in adults is 5.5-17 µg/mL. In children, it is 3-18.4 µg/mL. [1, 2, 3]

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Interpretation

Conditions associated with vitamin E deficiency (< 3 µg/mL in adults; < 1.5 µg/mL in infants) include the following:

Vitamin E toxicity (>40 µg/mL) may be associated with the following:

  • Increased all-cause mortality
  • Coagulopathy (easy bruising or bleeding; prolonged PT, aPTT; inhibition of platelet aggregation)
  • Impaired immunity
  • Constitutional and gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, gastric distress, abdominal cramps, diarrhea; headache; fatigue; muscle weakness)
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Collection and Panels

Specifics for collection and panels are as follows:

  • Specimen type: Blood serum
  • Container: Vacutainer, red top
  • Collection method: Venipuncture
  • Specimen volume: 0.5 mL
  • Other instructions: (1) fasting specimen (for infants, draw prior to next feeding) and (2) send specimen tube in light-protective container

Related tests: Vitamin A, beta carotene

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Background

Description

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and free-radical scavenger in lipophilic environments. Vitamin E requires bile for absorption, and 25% of it is absorbed orally. The vitamin is stored in adipose tissue, liver, and muscle.

Severe deficiency, as may occur in persons with abetalipoproteinemia or fat malabsorption, profoundly affects the central nervous system and can cause ataxia and a peripheral neuropathy resembling Friedreich ataxia.

While in most healthy adults, short-term supplementation with up to 1600 IU of vitamin E appears to be well tolerated and to have minimal side effects, long-term safety is questionable. Data suggest a possible increase in mortality and in the incidence of heart failure with long-term use of vitamin E (400 IU or more) in patients with chronic diseases. Therefore, an upper limit of 1000 mg/d may be too high.

Indications/Applications

Indications for testing of serum vitamin E include the following:

  • Evaluation of individuals with sensorimotor neuropathy
  • Evaluation of individuals with intestinal fat malabsorption
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