Vitamin E: Which Type is Right Vs. Wrong?
Vitamin E often makes headlines for its powerful antioxidant properties, which help to prevent damage from free radicals in your body. While this important vitamin is found naturally in nuts, vegetable and palm oils, wheat germ oil, and green leafy vegetables, it can be difficult to get enough from dietary sources alone -- particularly in the right forms.
There are actually EIGHT forms of vitamin E in all (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol), and research suggests that a mixture of tocopherols, and additionally tocotrienols, are best to receive the maximum wide-reaching benefits.
However, most vitamin E in American diets is in the form of gamma-tocopherol from soybean, canola, corn, and other vegetable oils and food products. In supplement form, most contain only alpha-tocopherol, as this was the only form of vitamin E recognized by the U.S. government for its health benefits until the 1960s. Because of this, when you see most “vitamin E” supplements, they’re actually only alpha-tocopherol.
As researchers, public health agencies and the public begin to catch on that vitamin E is not a single compound but rather eight unique isomers, the importance of getting healthy levels of each is becoming apparent.
But because the knowledge has not yet permeated the supplement market, you’re likely missing out on the six other forms of vitamin E -- even if you’re currently taking a vitamin E supplement.
Why Mixed Tocopherols and Separate Tocotrienols are Best
Current scientific literature suggests that the consumption of a significant amount of all four vitamin E tocopherols is of greater benefit than simply consuming alpha-tocopherol.
For instance, a study in Free Radical Biology & Medicine found that supplementation with a combination of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol was superior to either supplement alone on biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation. So there appear to be synergistic, supporting benefits to consuming tocopherols in mixed form.
Further, studies are beginning to bear out the individual properties of each type of vitamin E, and each appears to offer unique benefits to your health. For example:
- Men with the highest levels of alpha-tocopherol in their blood were 51 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer while those with the highest levels of gamma-tocopherol were 43 percent less likely to develop the disease.
- In an animal study, supplementation with gamma-tocotrienol vitamin E lead to better bone quality than olive oil or other forms of vitamin E.
- Tocotrienols appear to protect nerve cells, preventing them from dying after a stroke, according to research from Ohio State University.
- Tocotrienols, and especially delta-tocotrienols, inhibit human breast cancer cells by causing apoptosis (cell death). University of Texas, Austin researchers noted that delta-tocotrienol was the most potent inducer of cell death, causing apoptosis in breast cancer cells at a rate twice that of gamma-tocotrienol.
While it’s encouraged that you seek a mixed form of tocopherols, you should look to supplement tocotrienols separately. Why? Because tocopherol may inhibit the absorption of tocotrienols. This means that if you take a supplement with both, or even eat a food with both (such as palm oil and rice bran oil), you likely won’t absorb much of the tocotrienols.
So tocopherols and tocotrienols should be consumed separately for maximum results.
Synthetic Vs. Natural
The next piece of the vitamin E puzzle is ensuring that any supplement you take is a natural form of vitamin E -- not a synthetic version.
Most vitamin E supplements on the market are the synthetic version, which is listed on labels as dl alpha-tocopheryl. Made from petrochemicals, synthetic vitamin E is less bioavailable to your body and much less beneficial.
When Graham W. Burton, PhD studied the effects of natural versus synthetic vitamin E, he found that while both were absorbed, the liver preferred the natural form and therefore vitamin E blood levels of participants taking natural vitamin E were higher than those taking the synthetic form.
"What we found was that blood and organ levels of natural vitamin E were almost double those of synthetic vitamin E, and they were consistently so," Burton told The Nutrition Reporter.
Research by both Dr. Robert Acuff, PhD, professor and director, Center for Nutrition Research at East Tennessee State University and Maret Traber, associate professor at the Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University also found that natural vitamin E is the preferred source used by your body.
Natural vitamin E is now recognized to provide two times the IU value of an equal amount of synthetic vitamin E. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements:
“A given amount of synthetic alpha-tocopherol (listed on labels as "DL" or "dl") is … only half as active as the same amount (by weight in mg) of the natural form (labeled as "D" or "d"). People need approximately 50% more IU of synthetic alpha tocopherol from dietary supplements and fortified foods to obtain the same amount of the nutrient as from the natural form.”
So when searching for the best vitamin E supplements, it’s really a buyer beware market.
The Different Types of Vitamin E Supplements on the Market … Which is Best? And WHAT To LOOK for on your Label!
Securing a high-quality source of vitamin E is not as simple as just picking up any vitamin E on the store shelf, so it’s important to first get educated about what you’re likely to find out there:
- Synthetic Vitamin E (“dl”-alpha tocopherol, or All-racemic-alpha tocopherol): The cheapest and most widely available form, which is NOT identical to natural vitamin E preferred by your body which is thereby NOT easily absorbed or beneficial.
- Natural Vitamin E (“d”-alpha-tocopherol, or “RRR”-alpha-tocopherol): Derived and extracted from natural isolated plants. Beware of any labels that state “oils” in ingredients which are strictly fillers with no benefit. WARNING: “oil” fillers can cause natural E” products to become toxic. While the “d” on “d”-alpha-tocopherol ingredients is key on label listing, also make certain there are no “oils” listed on label.
- Synthetic or Natural Vitamin E Esters (tocopheryl acetate, tocopheryl succinate or tocopheryl phosphate): Vitamin E esters have been chemically altered to make them more stable. Once consumed, enzyme in your small intestine remove the ester from the tocopherol molecule and it is absorbed by your body.
- Natural Tocopherol-Tocotrienol Combinations: Typically these are made from natural sources such as palm, coconut or rice bran oil, however the quantities of tocopherols and tocotrienols may vary. Further, alpha-tocopherol inhibits the absorption of tocotrienols.
- Natural Mixed Tocopherols (Mixture of “d”-alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols: These are isolated, purified and concentrated from plant-source oils. The proper ratio of the isolates (“d”-alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta) provide the full synergistic activity for health benefits. A.C.Grace products have no oils fillers. WARNING: There should NOT be any other additional oils or chemical in the “E” product ingredients label listing -- such as vegetable oils or soy “oil” used in processing -- as such fillers can turn the product rancid and toxic.
- Natural Tocotrienols: High-Delta and Gamma Tocotrienols derived from the Annatto Bean contains the highest concentrates of tocotrienols. Unlike products derived from palm or rice bran oil, these tocotrienols contain no tocopherols -- which have been shown to inhibit assimilation of tocotrienols in the body. Taking them separately achieves maximum benefits which is highly recommended by well informed practitioners. A.C.Grace products have no oils fillers. WARNING: There should NOT be any other additional oils or chemical in the “E” product ingredients label listing -- such as vegetable oils or soy “oil” used in processing -- as such fillers can turn the product rancid and toxic.
Well Researched, Studied and Informed Practitioner’s Candid Findings
With the number of choices, it can feel overwhelming, but here at SixWise we have been studying this very topic, and are extremely excited to introduce two top-notch vitamin E products from ACGrace.com to help ensure you’re getting the full spectrum of vitamin E, in a form that your body will be able to absorb.
- UNIQUE E® Mixed Tocopherols Concentrate (OPTIMUM E COMPLEX): Each 700mg beef soft-gel capsule contains the highest concentration of the complete Vitamin E tocopherol complex — HIGH-Gamma, HIGH-Alpha, with Beta and Delta isomers — completely void of fillers or additives that can turn rancid. This all-natural, PURE Vitamin E concentrate consists of the natural form of Vitamin E as obtained through the diet and as used by the body.
UNIQUE E® Mixed Tocopherols softgels contain 400 I.U. of alpha-tocopherol along with at least 300mg of gamma-tocopherol and proprietary amounts of beta- and delta-tocopherol -- providing a full spectrum of ALL tocopherols mixed for maximum potency and vitamin E benefit.
- UNIQUE E® Tocotrienols: Each beef softgel capsule contains High-Delta and Gamma Tocotrienols derived from the Annatto Bean and contains the highest concentrates of tocotrienols at 125 mg per gel capsule. Unlike products derived from palm or rice bran oil, these tocotrienols contain no tocopherols — which have been shown to inhibit assimilation of tocotrienols in the body. Taking them separately achieves maximum benefits.
Ideally, you should take “UNIQUE E® Mixed Tocopherols” with your morning meal and “UNIQUE E® Tocotrienols” with your evening meal to take advantage of the full range of benefits vitamin E has to offer. It’s important to take this supplement with a meal because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires dietary fat in order to be properly absorbed.
Remember, you should strive to get plenty of vitamin E in your diet by eating vitamin-E-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds and nuts. But if you’re looking for extra assurance that you’re getting enough and want to supplement, be sure you’re taking an all-natural form of mixed tocopherols, along with a separate form of natural tocotrienols.
SixWise Says ...
High-quality, natural vitamin E may help to reduce oxidative stress, now recognized as a leading cause of chronic disease and aging.
Nutritional Deficiency: Symptoms & Recommendations for 24 Common Nutritional Deficiencies
The Seven Nutrients Americans are Most Deficient In & How to Get Them
Free Radical Biology & Medicine 2008 Mar 15;44(6):1203-8.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 67, 459-464
WellnessResources.com February 25, 2010
Ohio State University
Nutraingredients-usa.com March 3, 2005
National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin E