(tocopherols and tocotrienols)
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of fats in cellular membranes. Vitamin E is well-known for its benefit to cardiovascular health through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering effects. Vitamin E is also involved in immune function. When taken in combination with vitamin C, beta carotene, and zinc, vitamin E helps to prevent the progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S.
Vitamin E is not just one compound; it refers to a family of eight chemical forms – four tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherols) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocotrienols). In nature, several members of the vitamin E family may be present. However, in supplements and fortified foods, usually just one member, alpha-tocopherol is used because it is the most active form of vitamin E in humans.
Not all members of the vitamin E family have the same vitamin E activity. Of the eight, alpha-tocopherol has the highest vitamin E activity. While delta-tocotrienol has far less vitamin E activity, new information has emerged that it is more effective in lowering cholesterol. Taking a supplement that includes all members of the vitamin E family is prudent to obtain a wide range of health benefits.
The type of vitamin E supplied – natural or synthetic – also determines how readily the form converts into vitamin E activity. The natural form, (d-alpha-tocopherol) is more biologically available than the synthetic form (dl-alpha-tocopherol). For example, 1 International Unit (IU) of alpha tocopherol is equivalent to 0.67 mg of the natural form or just 0.45 mg of the synthetic form. In other words, to obtain one milligram of alpha-tocopherol, 1.49 IUs of the natural form needs to be used. With the synthetic form, 2.22 IUs or one and a half times more needs to be used.
Major Functions of Vitamin E
– Primary antioxidant that prevents oxidation of fats
– Reduces oxidation and breakdown of LDL or “bad” cholesterol
– Inhibits platelet aggregation and prevents the formation of blood clots
– Antiatherosclerosic effects promotes cardiovascular health
– Improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in diabetics
– Natural moisturizer that promotes healthy hair, skin and nails
– Protects the skin from ultra violet light
– Polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, soybean, safflower), seeds (sunflower), nuts and nut oils (almonds, hazelnuts), whole grains, wheat germ, brown rice
– Dark green leafy vegetables (mustard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, beet, kale, dandelion greens, broccoli)
– Legumes (Peanuts, peanut butter)
– Fruits (tomato & tomato products, mangoes, papayas, kiwi)
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is 22.4 IUs for adults. The RDA has been established for just alpha-tocopherol; none of the other seven members have an RDA.
If you look on a nutritional supplement facts panel, you’ll notice the Amount Per Serving for vitamin E and the % Daily Values is located at the top of the panel. The Amount Per Serving is based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for this nutrient which is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of nearly all (97–98%) healthy individuals in each life-stage and sex group.
The Reference Daily Intake for vitamin A is 30 IUs which represents 100% of the Daily Values. If a supplement provides mixed tocopherols, the supplement facts panel only provides the vitamin E activity for alpha-tocopherol. It does not provide any information on the vitamin E activity from beta-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol or gamma-tocopherol.
For supplements that provide mixed tocotrienols, these compounds are listed in milligrams and not as International Units due to the difficulty in measuring vitamin E activity in these family members. Additionally, mixed tocotrienols will be listed below Daily Values and will have a value of “†” because Daily Values have not been established for tocotrienols.
Although vitamin E has a long safety track record, even when amounts up to 1,200 IUs are taken daily, the supplement should be discontinued for 2 weeks prior to surgery and for 2 weeks following surgery. Vitamin E reduces platelet aggregation and adhesion thereby increasing the chance of bleeding. This effect is magnified when other supplements like garlic and medications like aspirin and warfarin (Coumadin) are taken in combination.
Some plastic surgeons have their patients take vitamin E after breast surgery to promote suppleness of the implants. Your surgeon can provide you with details provided he/she recommends this action.
For the reasons stated in the Precautions section, none of our Recovery Products are formulated with vitamin E.
Several years ago, the vitamin E in our Wellness Products was reformulated from d-alpha-tocopherol to a combination of natural, mixed tocopherols and mixed tocotrienols. We also reduced the total amount of vitamin E in our Multi-Vitamin & Mineral from 315 IUs to 105 IUs. These changes were consistent with clinical studies that demonstrated higher amounts were not necessary and may prove not to be beneficial.
Last updated July 1, 2018
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.