The Critical Role of Vitamin E in Children’s Health

By: Brightest Editors

April 19, 2017

In 2010, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved a new health claim that vitamin E protects DNA (the genetic code that makes you, you!), proteins (that play a crucial role in all body processes) and fats (which play many important roles in the body) from damage in the general population and in infants and children up to three years of age [1][2]. Interestingly, dietary surveys in Brazil, Germany, Russia and the United States indicate that vitamin E intakes of many toddlers do not reach the recommended levels [3]. In a different study, vitamin E was also identified as one of the vitamins that tends to be low in children in a range of European countries [4]. What’s more, children aren’t the only ones to be low in vitamin E as this is a concern for the general population [5] and it can be assumed that vitamin E intake is insufficient in pregnant and lactating women as well.

Vitamin E and Brain Health

Brain development begins early in pregnancy and continues after birth from infancy throughout childhood and adolescence [8]. This requires high amounts of specific fatty acids (e.g. DHA[1]).[9] and vitamin E plays a role in protecting these fatty acids to ensure healthy brain growth and development. As a result, pregnant and lactating women should be consuming good sources of vitamin E and DHA. [10]. Good sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains and wheat germ, and rich sources of DHA include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring) and vegetarian algae.

Vitamin E continues to be important for the growing infant [11, 12]. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breast milk be the sole source of nutrition for the first six months of life, providing important protective nutrients such as vitamin E. If the mothers’ diet is not rich in good sources of vitamin E, breast milk levels of vitamin E can decrease, so taking a supplement that contains vitamin E may help to improve vitamin E levels in breast milk.

Vitamin E and Obesity

According to the World Health Organization (, the number of obese and overweight infants and children reached 42 million in 2013 and is expected to reach 70 million by 2025.  Interesting new research suggests vitamin E may play a role in lessening some of the negative effects obesity has on our health [14]. This is particularly important as obesity is thought to be linked to the development of a range of diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Emerging science continues to identify new roles for vitamin E that further highlight its importance in the diet of the general population, as well as the diet of infants and young children.

[1] DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid


  1. EFSA NDA Panel, Scientific opinion- Vitamin E related health claims. EFSA Journal, 2010. 8(10): p. 1-30.
  2. EFSA NDA Panel, et al., Vitamin E and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage: evaluation of a health claim pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal, 2016. 14(10): p. e04588-n/a.
  3. Hilger, J., et al., Micronutrient Intake in Healthy Toddlers: A Multinational Perspective. Nutrients, 2015. 7(8): p. 6938-6955.
  4. Kaganov, B., et al., Suboptimal Micronutrient Intake among Children in Europe. Nutrients, 2015. 7(5): p. 3524-3535.
  5. Péter, S., et al., A systematic review of global alpha-tocopherol status as assessed by nutritional intakelevels and blood serum concentrations. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 2016. 14: p. 1-21.
  6. Evans, H.M. and K.S. Bishop, On the existence of a hitherto unrecognized dietary factor essential for reproduction.

    Science, 1922. 56(1458): p. 650-651.

  7. Traber, M.G., Vitamin E Inadequacy in Humans: Causes and Consequences. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 2014. 5(5): p. 503-514.
  8. Tau, G.Z. and B.S. Peterson, Normal Development of Brain Circuits. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2010. 35(1): p. 147-168.
  9. EFSA NDA Panel, Scientific opinion on the substantiation of a health claim related to DHA and contribution to normal brain development pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal, 2014. 12(10): p. 3840.
  10. Raederstorff, D., et al., Vitamin E function and requirements in relation to PUFA. Br J Nutr, 2015. 114(8): p. 1113-22.
  11. Friel, J.K., et al., Evidence of Oxidative Stress in Full-Term Healthy Infants. Pediatr Res, 2004. 56(6): p. 878-882.
  12. Tsukahara, H., et al., Oxidative stress in neonates: Evaluation using specific biomarkers. Life Sciences, 2004. 75(8): p. 933-938.
  13. Zarban, A., et al., Effect of vitamin C and E supplementation on total antioxidant content of human breastmilk and infant urine. Breastfeed Med, 2015. 10(4): p. 214-7.
  14. Kilic, E., et al., Oxidative Stress Status in Childhood Obesity: A Potential Risk Predictor. Medical Science Monitor : International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, 2016. 22: p. 3673-3679.
  15. Murer, S.B., et al., Antioxidant Supplements Reduced Oxidative Stress and Stabilized Liver Function Tests but Did Not Reduce Inflammation in a Randomized Controlled Trial in Obese Children and Adolescents. The Journal of Nutrition, 2014. 144(2): p. 193-201.

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