August 27, 2007

Natural vitamin E has roughly twice the availability of synthetic vitamin E

Written by Kevin Flatt

Most vitamin E supplements contain synthetic alpha-tocopherol, but unlike some other vitamins, synthetic vitamin E is not identical to natural. Vitamin E supplements are labelled d-alpha for natural and dl-alpha for synthetic. If the label lists “dl-alpha-tocopherol”, it’s not the real thing.

This is most clearly shown by comparing natural with synthetic vitamin E. Both have identical antioxidant activities, yet the natural vitamin E has roughly twice the availability of synthetic vitamin E. (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1998 Apr;67(4):669-84).

Japanese researchers found that natural vitamin E at 100 mg per day was not different from that of 300 mg per day of synthetic vitamin E in seven normal, healthy women aged 21-37 years. (Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Mar;65(3):785-9).

It is important to know that there are several types of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is actually a generic name for eight separate compounds. Some members of the vitamin E family are called tocopherols. These members include alpha tocopherol, beta tocopherol, gamma tocopherol, and delta tocopherol. Other members of the vitamin E family are called tocotrienols. These members include alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocotrienol. Both groups all blended together in plants and animals, which is why the best form of vitamin E comes from your food.

Nearly all of the clinical research on vitamin E has used alpha-tocopherol. Gamma-tocopherol concentrations in the blood have been reported to be significantly lower in coronary heart disease patients compared to healthy subjects, suggesting that the low gamma-tocopherol concentrations increased the risk of coronary heart disease. Gamma-tocopherol has also been shown be important in the vitamin E protective association with alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer.

Alpha-tocopherols are the most widely used, but gamma, beta and delta tocopherols also offer important benefits. Supplementing with mixed tocopherols should derive the benefits of both alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol, without creating an imbalance in these two forms of vitamin E. Supplements containing this wide variety of vitamin E forms are usually referred to as “mixed tocopherol” or “mixed tocotrienol” supplements.

High doses of alpha-tocopherol have been shown to deplete gamma-tocopherol.

Remember to take your vitamin E with some sort of fat or oil for better absorption as it is a fat soluble vitamin.

“According to [Maret] Traber and [Scott] Leonard, this indicates that people who are taking vitamin E supplements only with liquids on an empty stomach are accomplishing nothing and getting few if any benefits from the supplements. The vitamin clearly is absorbed better if it is part of, or closely associated with the digestion of a food that has some fat in it.” (David Stauth, Oregon State University, The Linus Pauling Institute 15/1/2004).

You can get the best forms of vitamin E through your food. Fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs, natural organ meats and nuts are good sources of vitamin E. Most of these foods give you the entire vitamin E family.

Related articles: Vitamin E – Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Heart Disease - Alpha or Gamma?

Copyright 2007 KevinFlatt.


Burton GW, Traber MG, Acuff RV, Walters DN, Kayden H, Hughes L, Ingold KU. Human plasma and tissue alpha-tocopherol concentrations in response to supplementation with deuterated natural and synthetic vitamin E. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Apr;67(4):669-84.

Kiyose C, Muramatsu R, Kameyama Y, Ueda T, Igarashi O. Biodiscrimination of alpha-tocopherol stereoisomers in humans after oral administration. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Mar;65(3):785-9. PMID: 9062530.

David Stauth, Oregon State University, The Linus Pauling Institute, Study finds huge variability in vitamin E absorption, 15-Jan-2004.

Copyright 2007 Kevin Flatt. Reproduction of any information on other websites is PROHIBITED.

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