Vitamin E – the food stabiliser and important antioxidant in your body (part 1).

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Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that stops the production of free radicals, formed when fat undergoes oxidation, so can help prevent or delay the chronic diseases associated with free radicals and affecting the immune system, cognitive function and cardiovascular health. If Vitamin E is so important, let’s look into some points: 

  • only a fifth of the world's population are receiving the recommended amount of Vitamin E (above 30 micromol/L),
  • in countries like the UK and the US over 75% of the population did not meet minimum Vitamin E levels,
  • more than 90% of the US's population did not meet their recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E - according to professor Manfred Eggersdorfer (senior vice president for nutrition science and advocacy at DSM) (Péter S., Friedel A., Roos FF., Wyss A., Eggersdorfer M., Hoffmann K., Weber P., Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res. 2016 Jul 14:1-21. - A Systematic Review of Global Alpha-Tocopherol Status as Assessed by Nutritional Intake Levels and Blood Serum Concentrations.)


In this review article is presented information for those of you, who:

  • is a supplier of Vitamin E,
  • is using Vitamin E for the food fortification,
  • is manufacturing supplements with Vitamin E,
  • is just interested in Vitamin E health benefits.

We are focused on explanation what is Vitamin E, how it works, where it is present, how it should be calculated, how and where it is applied, in what form of it is available, etc - from the industrial point of view.

In 5 parts of the article you will find following chapters:

  • What is Vitamin E exactly?
  • An activity of Vitamin E based on chemical forms of it.
  • A presence of Vitamin E in the body.
  • Functions of Vitamin E in the body.
  • Deficiency of Vitamin E.
  • Health risk from an excessive amount of Vitamin E.
  • Health claims of Vitamin E.
  • Calculations and conversions amount of Vitamin E.
  • Intake limits and recommendations for Vitamin E.
  • Sources of Vitamin E.
  • Bioavailability of Vitamin E.
  • Industrial Vitamin E.
  • Food fortification and supplements manufacturing.
  • Labelling products with Vitamin E.


What is Vitamin E exactly?

In general, we have already heard some information about Vitamin E. It is found naturally in some foods, it is added to others and it is available as a dietary supplement.

Vitamin E is the collective name for a set of Tocopherols and Tocotrienols, which are fat-soluble Vitamins with antioxidant properties. Naturally occurring Vitamin E exists in eight chemical forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-Tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-Tocotrienol) that have varying levels of biological activity. Of these, alpha-Tocopherol has been the most studied as it has the highest bioavailability. 

There are three stereocenters in any Tocopherol. The eight stereoisomers of each Tocopherol differ in the arrangement of groups around these stereocenters. 

Let’s look into an activity of different stereoisomers closer.


An activity of Vitamin E based on chemical forms of it.

As mentioned before we have eight stereoisomers for alpha-Tocopherol. We have to remember, that highly active form of Vitamin E is a natural alpha-Tocopherol (the stereoisomer RRR-alpha or ddd-alpha form). The synthetic dl,dl,dl-alpha ("dl-alpha") form is not as active as the natural ddd-alpha ("d-alpha") Tocopherol form. This is mainly due to reduced Vitamin E activity of the 4 possible stereoisomers which are represented by the l or S enantiomer at the first stereocenter (an S or l configuration between the chromanol ring and the tail, i.e., the SRR, SRS, SSR, and SSS stereoisomers).

Stereoisomers with natural R configuration at the first stereocenter, but with S configuration at the other centers in the tail (RSR, RRS), appear to retain substantial RRR-alpha-Tocopherol activity because they are recognized by the alpha-Tocopherol transport protein, and thus maintained in the plasma; where the other four stereoisomers (with S configuration in the first stereocentre) are not.

Thus, the synthetic all-rac-alpha-Tocopherol probably has only about half the Vitamin activity of RRR-alpha-Tocopherol in humans (although though the ratio of activities of the 8 stereoisomer racemic mixture to the natural Vitamin is 1 to 1.36 in the rat pregnancy model). Although it is clear that mixtures of stereoisomers are not as active as the natural RRR-alpha-Tocopherol form, in the ratios discussed above, specific information on any side effects of the seven synthetic Vitamin E stereoisomers is not readily available. 

Read also other parts of the article: part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5.


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