Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that is often deficient in HIV-positive people. Vitamin E is necessary to ensure the optimum functioning of cell membranes. Marginal deficiency appears to be quite widespread in healthy adults eating the standard Western diet, especially one which is high in polyunsaturated fat. Deficiency may interfere with efficient immune functions, but so may doses above 800IU a day. Vitamin E stimulates CD4 T-cell proliferation at high doses, and in healthy adults has been shown to restore delayed-type skin hypersensitivity reactions and interleukin-2 production at a dose of 400IU per day.1 It is not known whether this is beneficial at all, or any, stages of HIV infection. The safe dose is not yet known.

A study of 310 men followed for nine years found that those with serum vitamin E levels above 23.5um/l had a significantly reduced risk of disease progression. A strong correlation was noted in this cohort between intake of supplements containing vitamin E on entry into the study and high blood levels of vitamin E.2

Vitamin E has been shown to improve the anti-viral effect of AZT (zidovudine, Retrovir) in the test tube, but it has no anti-viral effect on its own. It may also protect the bone marrow cells from damage by AZT.3 There are no studies of its specific benefits in HIV-positive people except in the improvement of seborrhoeic dermatitis. Italian doctors found that HIV-positive people with AIDS who took 300 to 600IU of vitamin E with selenium and methionine saw improvements in seborrheic dermatitis and overall white blood cell count.4 Another study has found people taking vitamins E and C showed a trend towards reduced HIV viral load.

Good food sources of vitamin E are whole grains, cereals, eggs, sunflower and olive oil and green leafy vegetables, but these foods will not provide vitamin E in the quantities used in the studies reported above. Individuals who eat large amounts of fish or who take fish-oil supplements are especially prone to vitamin E deficiency because fish oils interfere with vitamin E metabolism. Vitamin E needs to be taken in the form of alpha tocepherol in order to have an antioxidant effect.


  1. Meydani M et al. Fat soluble vitamins: vitamin E. Lancet 345:170-175, 1995
  2. Tang AM et al. Association between serum vitamin A and E levels and HIV-1 disease progression. AIDS 11: 613-620, 1997
  3. Gogu SR et al. Increased therapeutic efficacy of zidovudine in combination with vitamin E. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 165:1 pp401-07, 1989
  4. Ippolito F et al. Administration of anti-oxidants and w6 PUFA improves seborrheic dermatitis in HIV positive patients. Ninth International Conference on AIDS, Berlin, abstract PoB29-2185, 1993

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.