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What is Vitamin E test?

A Vitamin E test, also known as tocopherol or alpha-tocopherol test, is used to assess the levels of vitamin E in the bloodstream.

Vitamin E plays various important roles in the body. It boosts immune functions and helps clear harmful antigens from the body. It also helps in the maintenance of RBCs production and blood clotting.

The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E in adults is about 15 mg/day and ranges from 6 to 15 mg/day in children. A deficiency in humans is said to be rare, except in premature infants and in case of malabsorption. However, lack of vitamin E in women during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of hypertension, placental abruption, miscarriage or premature birth.

  1. Why is Vitamin E test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for Vitamin E test?
  3. How is Vitamin E test performed?
  4. What do Vitamin E test results mean?

Vitamin E or tocopherol test might be used to:

  • Test vitamin E levels in premature babies
  • Check if a person has adequate vitamin E intake
  • Evaluate the levels of absorption of vitamin E in body
  • Investigate brown bowel syndrome
  • Evaluate nutrition levels of patients who are on long-term parenteral nutrition

Symptoms of low vitamin E levels due to improper intake or low absorption are as follows:

  • Loss of balance while walking
  • Slower reflexes
  • Eyesight issues
  • Muscle weakness

Higher than normal levels of vitamin E might result in the following:

A half-day, that is 12 to 16 hours of fasting is recommended prior to the test.

This is a simple test done on a blood sample collected using a syringe. 

  • You would be asked to lay down or be seated and make a fist
  • A technician will tie a rubber band around upper your arm to help locate a vein
  • Once a vein is visible, he/she will clean the area from where blood is to be taken
  • He/she will then insert a needle into the vein to draw a blood sample
  • After collecting enough blood sample, the technician will pull out the needle and place an adhesive bandage at the site of blood withdrawal
  • You will be asked to press the injection site firmly for a while to stop bleeding

Results for a vitamin E test are available within three to five days of the test. 

Minor risks are associated with this test include slight bruising and pain at the site of blood withdrawal. However, most of these symptoms go away immediately.

Normal results:

Normal value of vitamin E in children is 3-18.4 µg/mL and in adults, it is 5.5 to 17 µg/mL.

Abnormal results:

Low amounts of vitamin E might indicate poor intake or low absorption in the body. The physician might recommend more tests to find out the cause for the deficiency. Low vitamin E levels might be due to the following conditions:

Prolonged low vitamin E levels might cause ataxia (impaired coordination and balance due to brain or nerve damage) and axonal neuropathy (a variant of Guillain–Barré syndrome that is characterised by sensory loss and loss of reflexes). In developed countries, chronic vitamin E deficiency is associated with disorders of lipid absorption.

High vitamin E levels might hamper the blood coagulation properties of vitamin K; therefore, in this case, vitamin E intake via supplements should be lowered. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to reduce vitamin E levels.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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References

  1. Marshall W, Lapsley M, Day A, Ayling R. Clinical Biochemistry – Metabolic & Clinical Aspects. Churchill Livingstone, 3rd Edition, 2014, ISBN 978-0-7020-5140-1
  2. John Edward Hall, Arthur C. Guyton, Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology, Edition 12 illustrated, Saunders/Elsevier, 2011, ISBN 9781416045748
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fat-Soluble Vitamins & Micronutrients: Vitamins A and E and Carotenoids, Atlanta, GA, [Internet]
  4. Kemnic TR, Coleman M. Vitamin E Deficiency. [Updated 2019 Feb 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan.
  5. UW Health, Health Information: Vitamin E, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, [Internet]
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Blood Tests. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, [Internet]
  7. The Johns Hopkins University, Blood Test, Baltimore, MD, [Internet]
  8. Chen H, Qian N, Yan L, Jiang H. Role of serum vitamin A and E in pregnancy. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2018 Dec;16(6):5185-5189. PMID: 30542475