Vitamin E (α-tocopherol) is recognised as a key essential lipophilic antioxidant in humans protecting lipoproteins, PUFA, cellular and intra-cellular membranes from damage. The aim of this review was to evaluate the relevant published data about vitamin E requirements in relation to dietary PUFA intake.
Evidence in animals and humans indicates a minimal basal requirement of 4-5 mg/d of RRR-α-tocopherol when the diet is very low in PUFA. The vitamin E requirement will increase with an increase in PUFA consumption and with the degree of unsaturation of the PUFA in the diet. The vitamin E requirement related to dietary linoleic acid, which is globally the major dietary PUFA in humans, was calculated to be 0·4-0·6 mg of RRR-α-tocopherol/g of linoleic acid.
Animal studies show that for fatty acids with a higher degree of unsaturation, the vitamin E requirement increases almost linearly with the degree of unsaturation of the PUFA in the relative ratios of 0·3, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 for mono-, di-, tri-, tetra-, penta- and hexaenoic fatty acids, respectively.
Assuming a typical intake of dietary PUFA, a vitamin E requirement ranging from 12 to 20 mg of RRR-α-tocopherol/d can be calculated. A number of guidelines recommend to increase PUFA intake as they have well-established health benefits. It will be prudent to assure an adequate vitamin E intake to match the increased PUFA intake, especially as vitamin E intake is already below recommendations in many populations worldwide.
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