Vitamin E or alpha-tocopherol is an important micronutrient that helps regulate different functions in your body, from your eye health to your immune response. Most people get enough vitamin E from their daily diet; however, some people can have altered vitamin E levels. In these cases, it’s important to get a vitamin E test to diagnose the problem.
Keep reading to learn more about vitamin E tests and how to check for vitamin E at home.
What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, there are different variants of vitamin E, but the one that can be used by the human body is called alpha-tocopherol.
Another form of vitamin E, called vitamin E acetate, isn’t harmful when ingested but can cause problems if it’s inhaled. Testing for vitamin E acetate has found this substance in vaping and e-cigarette products, which can lead to lung damage.
Functions of vitamin E
According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin E works as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are molecules that can help protect your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals, which are loose atoms that are released when your body is exposed to oxidative stress. Free radicals can damage your cells, and exposure to free radicals is considered to be a contributing factor to many diseases, such as heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Vitamin E and other antioxidants can help neutralize these free radicals in order to protect your cells. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the antioxidants found in natural food sources may be more effective than antioxidants found in supplements.
According to the NHS, vitamin E also helps maintain your skin and eye health, while strengthening your immune system to help your body fight off infections and illnesses. Along with other micronutrients, vitamin E also plays a role in preventing blood clots from developing.
Some studies also suggest that vitamin E could prevent the decline of your cognitive function and protect against certain neurodegenerative diseases. However, the evidence from these studies is mixed and more research is still needed on the topic.
Sources of vitamin E
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is approximately 15 mg daily (or 22 international units, IU) for male and female teenagers and adults over the age of 15 years old, including pregnant women. Women who are breastfeeding require slightly higher amounts of vitamin E, around 19 mg (28 IU) daily.
You should be able to fulfill your daily vitamin E requirements through a healthy and balanced diet. Since vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, your body can store vitamin E in the liver and other tissues.
According to the National Institutes of Health, dietary sources of vitamin E include:
- Vegetable oils
- Nut butters
- Wheat germ
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fortified cereals
In some cases, your doctor could recommend that you also take a vitamin E supplement. Most vitamin E supplements only contain alpha-tocopherol, since this is the type of vitamin E that can be used by your body more efficiently. However, certain supplements also contain other variants of vitamin E.
Vitamin E test
A vitamin E lab test is meant to determine the amount of vitamin E in your blood. According to MedlinePlus, you may need a vitamin E blood test if your doctor suspects that you have vitamin E levels that are too high or too low.
Most cases of low vitamin E occur due to diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract, such as malabsorption disorders. Vitamin E deficiency caused by low dietary intake is rare in developed countries, but it can happen. Vitamin E toxicity symptoms are usually caused by taking high dosage supplements over a period of time.
Testing for vitamin E is also routinely performed in premature babies. Preterm children can develop symptoms due to low levels of vitamin E.
Traditional vitamin E testing is performed using a venous blood sample. Your healthcare provider may ask you to fast for approximately 12-14 hours before taking the test. Test results are typically ready within 2-5 days.
Testing for vitamin E at home
Some companies now offer at-home vitamin E tests, which allow you to check if you have normal vitamin E levels at home. If you’re interested in self testing for vitamin E levels, you’ll simply have to order a testing kit from a high-quality provider. After receiving your kit, follow the instructions and collect your sample. Depending on the kit, you may be asked to mail the samples back to the provider or take them to a certified lab for processing.
Afterwards, you’ll receive your test results via email. You’ll also have access to clinical guidance to discuss your results. Some of the best alternatives to get an at-home vitamin E test include:
- LetsGetChecked: the company’s Essential Vitamin Test ($80.99) and Micronutrient Test ($161.10) both include vitamin E testing within a larger group of tests.
- Health Testing Centers: this company offers a dedicated Vitamin E Test ($54), and also the Vitamin A, E, Beta Carotene Package ($149), and Comprehensive Vitamin Panel ($619).
Visit STDWatch.com now to learn more about many other health and wellness topics.
Vitamin E - hsph.harvard.edu
Vitamin E - mayoclinic.org
Vitamin E - nhs.uk
Vitamin E - ods.od.nih.gov
Vitamin E (Tocopherol) Test - medlineplus.gov