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Side Effects of a Vitamin E Supplement

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.

Vitamin E is abundant in a variety of healthy foods. Most people can get all the vitamin E they need by following a well-balanced meal plan. But if your doctor gives you the OK to take a vitamin E supplement, you may do so in recommended amounts, which shouldn’t cause any side effects. Adverse effects, however, may result from taking too much vitamin E in supplement form.

Recommended Amounts

When taking vitamin E in supplement form, avoid exceeding the tolerable upper intake level -- which is the maximum safe amount. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, adult tolerable upper intake levels for vitamin E are 1,000 milligrams -- equivalent to 1,500 international units -- per day. The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for vitamin E is 15 milligrams for adults and 19 milligrams during lactation, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Disease Risks

The Office of Dietary Supplements reports that although you likely won’t experience side effects from getting too much vitamin E from foods, vitamin E toxicity that occurs from taking dietary supplements can be dangerous. The ODS also notes that too much vitamin E from supplements can increase your risk for hemorrhagic stroke, prostate cancer in men and your overall risk of death from all causes.

Acute Side Effects

In addition to elevated disease risks, overdosing on vitamin E supplements can cause acute side effects. Such effects may include diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, headaches, weakness, fatigue, rash, bruising and blurred vision, according to MedlinePlus. Taking high doses of vitamin E supplements can also increase your risk for bleeding -- especially if you have a bleeding disorder. If you start to experience any of these symptoms, stop taking vitamin E supplements immediately and see your doctor.

Pregnancy Considerations

MedlinePlus notes that taking vitamin E supplements could be harmful to a developing fetus when taken early on in pregnancy and recommends avoiding vitamin E supplements during early pregnancy. However, a study published in 2011 in the “International Journal of General Medicine” reports that taking a vitamin E supplement -- in recommended amounts -- during the second trimester of pregnancy does not appear to negatively impact pregnancy outcomes. Talk with an obstetrician if you’re considering a vitamin E supplement during your second or third trimester of pregnancy.

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