The best time of day to take vitamins depends mostly on personal preference. Taking them at the same time every day helps create a habit, so you don't forget. It doesn't matter if you take vitamin E in the morning or evening, but take it with a meal or snack containing fat to aid absorption.
You can take vitamin E capsules any time of day as long as you take them with a source of fat.
Fat-Soluble Vitamin E
If you're going to invest money in a supplement, you might as well make sure you're getting the most out of it. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, along with vitamins A, D and K. These vitamins dissolve in fat and are absorbed in the body along with dietary fats.
The digestion and absorption of vitamin E requires bile acids produced by the liver as well as pancreatic enzymes. These are packaged with fat into lipoproteins called chylomicrons that deliver nutrients to tissues throughout the body. A vitamin E supplement taken with a low-fat meal is unlikely to be absorbed, reports the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
Preventing Vitamin E Deficiency
Making sure to take your vitamin E supplement with a little fat helps you reap the potential benefits of getting enough of this nutrient in your diet. This is especially true if your doctor has recommended a supplement because of a deficiency. Although vitamin E deficiency is rare in healthy people, it can occur in some circumstances, reports the National Institutes of Health.
Because fat in the intestinal tract is required for absorption, people with fat-malabsorption issues are more likely to develop a vitamin E deficiency. Symptoms of a deficiency may include:
- Peripheral neuropathy, causing weakness, numbness and pain in the hands and feet.
- Ataxia, a lack of muscle control that can affect voluntary movements such as walking, speech, eye movement and swallowing.
- Skeletal myopathy, a disorder of the skeletal muscles that leads to muscle weakness and dysfunction. Sometimes it may affect cardiac muscle fibers.
- Retinopathy, a condition that causes damage to the retina of the eye and can lead to partial or full blindness.
- Immune system impairment.
The NIH reports that people with certain conditions, including Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis or problems with bile secretion from the liver into the digestive tract, may need to take a special water-soluble formulation of vitamin E. In this case, taking the supplement with a meal may or may not matter; however, patients should follow their doctor's instructions.
Vitamin E Benefits
People without a condition affecting absorption typically can get all the vitamin E they need from a healthy diet including nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, which are the richest food sources of the nutrient. Other sources include leafy, green vegetables and fortified cereals.
Eating these foods regularly can help you get the amount determined by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Medicine to be sufficient and adequate to promote health and prevent deficiency in the general population. For men and women, the recommended dietary intake is 15 mg per day. The only exception is women who are lactating — they need 19 mg per day.
Meeting these recommended amounts through food and supplements may play a role in preventing and treating four common diseases affecting human health: heart disease, cancer, eye disorders and cognitive decline. However, according to the NIH, there is only preliminary evidence of vitamin E benefits in these conditions, and much more research is needed. At this time the consensus is that the general population does not need to supplement with vitamin E.
Following Dosage Instructions
If your doctor has instructed you to take a vitamin E supplement, it's important to follow dosage instructions. While getting enough vitamin E is beneficial, too much can be harmful. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin E, have more of a potential for negative health effects when taken in high doses, because excess amounts can build up in the body. This is not a risk with the water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C.
If you are vigilant and always take your supplement with a meal containing fat, you should assume you are absorbing the full amount of vitamin E in the supplement. High doses of vitamin E may increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, according to the NIH. Therefore, the Food and Nutrition Board has established a tolerable upper intake level (UL) for the nutrient. The UL is the maximum amount of the nutrient that is safe for long-term use in the general population.
The UL for vitamin E for men, women, pregnant women and lactating women is 1,000 mg daily. This is 67 times the RDI, which would seemingly make it difficult to exceed; however, it's not as hard as it seems. Some supplements may provide an amount equivalent to the daily UL in one serving.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there some potential side effects of vitamin E supplements, and taking too much can increase the risk of experiencing:
- Intestinal cramps
- Blurred vision
- Gonadal dysfunction
- High levels of creatine in the urine
Thinking that more is better to fully take advantage of vitamin E benefits could significantly increase your risk of adverse effects, if you take more than one dose daily.
Read more: The 14 Best Foods for Your Heart
Timing Vitamin E Intake
This is why it's important to always consult with your doctor before taking vitamin E capsules — or any supplement. Your doctor can also advise you on the best time to take vitamin E, morning or night, and how much fat you need to eat at the same time for optimal absorption.
Many people find that taking supplements in the morning helps them avoid forgetting to take them later in the day. If you decide to take vitamin E in the evening, you can take it with dinner. A source of healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado on a salad or with steamed vegetables can aid absorption, as can the healthy fats in fish.
Taking it before bed is probably not the best idea, unless you plan to have a snack containing fat. If so, you can take it with some nuts, nut butter or cottage cheese. Just make sure that you're accounting for your nighttime snack in your total daily calorie intake for the day, and avoid eating foods that may keep you up at night, including spicy and sugary foods and anything with caffeine or chocolate.
- Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health: "What Are Fat-Soluble Vitamins?"
- Endotext: "Introduction to Lipids and Lipoproteins"
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin E"
- NIH: "Vitamin E"
- Mayo Clinic: "Peripheral Neuropathy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Ataxia"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Myopathy"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Retinopathy"
- National Academies of Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins"
- National Academies of Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Tolerable Upper Intake Levels, Vitamins"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin E"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin E