Vitamin E is involved in maintaining the integrity and function of cellular membranes. It is also thought to play a role in the prevention of oxidation of fatty acids contained in cell membranes. Vitamin E is also thought to be an antioxidant, potentially capable of preventing the actions of free radicals.
Vitamin E is fat-soluble and therefore is absorbed with fat in the diet. Only a small percentage (20-40%) is absorbed from the gut. Vitamin E is transported to the liver via fat transporters called chylomicrons and to tissues via plasma lipoproteins. It is stored in membranes and in the liver, adipose (fat) and muscle tissue.
Vitamin E is most commonly found in vegetable and cereal seed oils. It is also found in small amounts in eggs, fish and meat.
Vitamin E deficiency may lead to hemolytic anemia, edema (water retention), elevated platelet count, red blood cell structural changes and skin lesions. Adults are rarely deficient, however, premature babies may be at risk of deficiency due to poor placental transfer and absorption from the gut.