- Vitamin E deficiency can cause muscle weakness, numbness, coordination issues, and more.
- You are particularly at risk for vitamin E deficiency if you have Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis.
- Good sources of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and almonds.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
is a nutrient that we all need to be healthy. This vitamin has various important functions, including protecting cells from free radical damage, boosting the immune system, and preventing blood clotting.
If you are severely lacking vitamin E due to poor diet or an underlying medical condition, you may have a vitamin E deficiency. While rare in healthy adults in the United States, vitamin E deficiency is a possibility.
Here’s how to tell if you’re vitamin E deficient.
Symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency
Since vitamin E benefits various areas throughout the body, a deficiency can cause a lot of different symptoms such as:
1. Muscle Weakness: Without adequate vitamin E, muscles can experience oxidative stress, which is when there’s an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body, says Kristen Elizabeth Holtz, DO, family medicine doctor at Riverside Health System. This oxidative stress results in muscle weakness, Holtz says.
2. Coordination issues: Vitamin E deficiency can lead to the Purkinje neurons in the brain breaking down. Since these neurons are crucial for coordination and movement control, Holtz says when these neurons are affected, coordination is impaired.
3. Numbness and tingling: In some cases, a lack of vitamin E can cause peripheral neuropathy, a condition that results in numbness — usually in the hands and feet. “This happens because it damages nerve fibers, which can prevent them from transmitting signals correctly,” says Holtz.
4. Weakened immune system: Vitamin E helps boost the body’s immune system by supporting the growth of T-cells, which help ward off infections, says Holtz. When the immune system isn’t functioning properly, it becomes weak, making people more susceptible to infection and have trouble fighting them off.
5. Impaired vision: A lack of vitamin E can weaken the light receptors in your retina, leading to vision problems like blurry vision over time, Holtz says.
Causes of vitamin E deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency is rarely diet-related and instead mainly occurs in people with genetic conditions or medical issues where the body cannot absorb fat and digest it properly, says Shirin Peters, MD, internist and founder of Bethany Medical Clinic.
This is because vitamin E is fat-soluble. The body absorbs vitamin E the way it does fats, and then it gets stored in the fat tissue and liver.
Some examples of these conditions are:
- Ataxia with vitamin E deficiency
- Crohn’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
Additionally, newborns are more likely to be vitamin E deficient due to their lack of fat, particularly premature babies. This goes back to vitamin E being fat-soluble.
Sources of vitamin E
It’s recommended that adults consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily.
“Each person’s dietary needs will vary slightly. While most people can get enough from diet alone, others may need to take a supplement,” says Peters.
Some good dietary sources of vitamin E are:
- Sunflower seeds: 7.4 mg in an ounce serving
- Almonds: 6.8 mg in an ounce serving
- Peanut butter: 2.9 mg in a two tablespoon serving
- Peanuts: 2.2 mg in an ounce serving
- Spinach: 1.9 mg in a half cup serving
- Broccoli: 1.2 mg in a half cup serving
Vitamin E deficiency is very rare in healthy people, but if you have one of the aforementioned preexisting conditions and are experiencing symptoms such as muscle weakness, coordination issues, or numbness and tingling, it’s important to visit your doctor to determine what the cause could be and create a plan to get you feeling better.