On the problematic nature of vitamin E requirements: net vitamin E

Z Ernahrungswiss. 1991 Sep;30(3):174-80. doi: 10.1007/BF01610340.


The requirement for vitamin E is closely related to the dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). By the protective mechanism to prevent PUFA from being peroxidized, vitamin E is metabolically consumed. In addition, PUFA impair the intestinal absorption of vitamin E. Therefore PUFA generate an additional vitamin E requirement on the order of 0.6, 0.9, 1.2, 1.5, and 1.8 mg vitamin E (RRR-alpha-tocopherol-equivalents), respectively, for 1 g of dienoic, trienoic, tetraenoic, pentaenoic, and hexaenoic acid. For this reason, the gross vitamin E content of food containing PUFA does not allow an evaluation of this food as a source of vitamin E. A suitable measure is the net vitamin E content, i.e., gross vitamin E minus the amount needed for PUFA protection. Therefore, some food-stuffs generally considered as vitamin-E sources, as concluded from their gross vitamin E content, cause in reality a vitamin E deficiency if not sufficiently compensated by other vitamin E supplying food constituents. Examples of the net vitamin E content of some fats and oils, fish and nuts are shown. Consequences for food composition data and food labeling and the problem of meeting the vitamin-E requirements are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin E / metabolism


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Vitamin E