Matthew Messer

Matthew Messer


Vitamin E plays an important role in the satisfactory functioning of the immune system. It boosts the body’s defensive ability especially in the elderly but it’s also been observed that regular vitamin E supplementation decreases the risk of certain infections in the case of young peple as well. A lot of research suggests that the oxidized form of LDL cholesterol, often called bad cholesterol can cause arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular deseases, however, one of the most important qualities of vitamin E is that it protects the body from this oxidation. (2,3

8 different forms of vitamin E exist. Most research has only examined the effects of one of them, alpha tocopherol. Lately, however, more and more attention has been paid to other forms of vitamin E since they possess a number of qualities alpha tocopherol doesn’t. (4

Beneficial effects 

  • Vitamin E supplementation reduced the risk of upper respiratory infection in the case of elderly individuals. (5, 6, 7

  • It improved participants’ resistance and had a positive effect on the immune cells under observation. (8, 9

  • It reduced the incidence of pneumonia and other infections especially in the case of smokers. (10, 11

In the studies alpha tocopherol or its synthetic variant was used in various high doses. It was probably more effective among the elderly and the smokers in the studies because their natural antioxidant system is more exhausted than that of healthy, young people. 

How does it help the immune system? 

Vitamin E and immunity’s connection and its exact mechanism have been studied extensively. Vitamin E regulates immune cells and certain inflammatory processes in the body in diverse ways. 

  • The main task of macrophages, a type of white blood cells is to detect and devour harmful microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi and to signal to other immune cells. It’s been demonstrated using animal models that old animals’ macrophages can’t divide that well, their signalling functions work less and they also produce a lot more inflammation-inducing materials. Vitamin E however, reversed these negative processes. (12) In a study on patients with asthma vitamin E supplementation reduced the damage in their antioxidant system and restored the reduced activity of their macrophages. (13

  • Natural killer (NK) cells are a group of lymphocytes which detect and destroy harmful cells, for example cells infected by a virus. In the case of elderly women the NK cells work much more effectively for those who had a higher vitamin E level. (14) The activity of the NK cells of a boy with a genetic disorder significantly improved as a result of an 8-week-long vitamin E supplementation treatment, then dropped again when he stopped supplementing vitamin E. (15

  • Vitamin E has the most effect on those T cells whose function deteriorates with the passing of time so protection against infections lessens with age. In several studies vitamin E improved T cell immunity, and slowed down or even reversed these negative changes.(6, 7, 16


Vitamin E greatly contributes to proper immunity because it helps the funcioning of immune cells in various ways. The most important step is to prevent vitamin E deficiency and especially for the elderly it’s worth taking it in larger doses for immune restoration. The best method of supplementing vitaminE is the combination of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols dissolved in oil low in Omega 6 since this way vitamin E need is provided without having to worry about either the high Omega 6 intake, or upsetting the proportion of different types. 

[The cover photo of the note shows hazelnuts. 100 grams contain 15 mg of vitamin E, which covers the entire daily requirement.]


  1. Niki E. Role of vitamin E as a lipid-soluble peroxyl radical scavenger: in vitro and in vivo evidence. Free Radic Biol Med. 2014 Jan;66:3-12. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.03.022. Epub 2013 Apr 2. PMID: 23557727. 

  2. Princen HM, van Duyvenvoorde W, Buytenhek R, van der Laarse A, van Poppel G, Gevers Leuven JA, van Hinsbergh VW. Supplementation with low doses of vitamin E protects LDL from lipid peroxidation in men and women. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1995 Mar;15(3):325-33. doi: 10.1161/01.atv.15.3.325. PMID: 7749842. 

  3. Gao S, Liu J. Association between circulating oxidized low-density lipoprotein and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Chronic Dis Transl Med. 2017;3(2):89-94. Published 2017 May 25. doi:10.1016/j.cdtm.2017.02.008 

  4. Does Vitamin E Prevent or Promote Cancer?Chung S. Yang, Nanjoo Suh and Ah-Ng Tony KongCancer Prev Res May 1 2012 (5) (5) 701-705; DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0045 

  5. Meydani SN, Leka LS, Fine BC, Dallal GE, Keusch GT, Singh MF, Hamer DH. Vitamin E and respiratory tract infections in elderly nursing home residents: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2004 Aug 18;292(7):828-36. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.7.828. Erratum in: JAMA. 2004 Sep 15;292(11):1305. Erratum in: JAMA. 2007 May 2;297(17):1882. PMID: 15315997; PMCID: PMC2377357. 

  6. Meydani SN, Barklund MP, Liu S, Meydani M, Miller RA, Cannon JG, Morrow FD, Rocklin R, Blumberg JB. Vitamin E supplementation enhances cell-mediated immunity in healthy elderly subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Sep;52(3):557-63. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/52.3.557. PMID: 2203257. 

  7. Meydani SN, Meydani M, Blumberg JB, Leka LS, Siber G, Loszewski R, Thompson C, Pedrosa MC, Diamond RD, Stollar BD. Vitamin E supplementation and in vivo immune response in healthy elderly subjects. A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1997 May 7;277(17):1380-6. doi: 10.1001/jama.1997.03540410058031. PMID: 9134944. 

  8. Pallast EG, Schouten EG, de Waart FG, Fonk HC, Doekes G, von Blomberg BM, Kok FJ. Effect of 50- and 100-mg vitamin E supplements on cellular immune function in noninstitutionalized elderly persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jun;69(6):1273-81. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/69.6.1273. PMID: 10357750. 

  9. Mahalingam D, Radhakrishnan AK, Amom Z, Ibrahim N, Nesaretnam K. Effects of supplementation with tocotrienol-rich fraction on immune response to tetanus toxoid immunization in normal healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jan;65(1):63-9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2010.184. Epub 2010 Sep 22. PMID: 20859299. 

  10. Hemilä H. Vitamin E administration may decrease the incidence of pneumonia in elderly males. Clin Interv Aging. 2016 Oct 3;11:1379-1385. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S114515. PMID: 27757026; PMCID: PMC5055121. 

  11. Hemilä H, Kaprio J, Albanes D, Heinonen OP, Virtamo J. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene in relation to common cold incidence in male smokers. Epidemiology. 2002 Jan;13(1):32-7. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200201000-00006. PMID: 11805583. 

  12. Beharka AA, Wu D, Han SN, Meydani SN. Macrophage prostaglandin production contributes to the age-associated decrease in T cell function which is reversed by the dietary antioxidant vitamin E. Mech Ageing Dev. 1997 Feb;93(1-3):59-77. doi: 10.1016/s0047-6374(96)01819-2. PMID: 9089571. 

  13. Dworski R, Han W, Blackwell TS, Hoskins A, Freeman ML. Vitamin E prevents NRF2 suppression by allergens in asthmatic alveolar macrophages in vivo. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Jul 15;51(2):516-21. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.04.040. Epub 2011 May 4. PMID: 21605660; PMCID: PMC3439844. 

  14. Ravaglia G, Forti P, Maioli F, Bastagli L, Facchini A, Mariani E, Savarino L, Sassi S, Cucinotta D, Lenaz G. Effect of micronutrient status on natural killer cell immune function in healthy free-living subjects aged >/=90 y. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Feb;71(2):590-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/71.2.590. PMID: 10648276. 

  15. Adachi N, Migita M, Ohta T, Higashi A, Matsuda I. Depressed natural killer cell activity due to decreased natural killer cell population in a vitamin E-deficient patient with Shwachman syndrome: reversible natural killer cell abnormality by alpha-tocopherol supplementation. Eur J Pediatr. 1997 Jun;156(6):444-8. doi: 10.1007/s004310050634. PMID: 9208238. 

  16. Marko MG, Ahmed T, Bunnell SC, Wu D, Chung H, Huber BT, Meydani SN. Age-associated decline in effective immune synapse formation of CD4(+) T cells is reversed by vitamin E supplementation. J Immunol. 2007 Feb 1;178(3):1443-9. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.178.3.1443. PMID: 17237392. 

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