Who hasn’t heard about vitamin E and its health benefits? Discovered in 1922, it is only in the last decade that the public began to be educated about the critical fact that vitamin E is not a single compound, but a general name for a whole family of compounds. Eight forms of vitamin E have been identified as existing in nature. While all forms of vitamin E are active antioxidants inside our bodies, these isomers belong either to a sub-family of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) or a sub-family of four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta).
The major difference between the tocotrienols and the tocopherols is that the tail is saturated in the case of the tocopherols, but is polyunsaturated in the case of the tocotrienols. As with the fatty acids, a polyunsaturated structure means that the molecule is more reactive and more fluid. This means, for example, that alpha tocotrienol would be much more protective of cell membranes than alpha tocopherol. Research is beginning to focus on specific tocopherols and tocotrienols, rather than on just “vitamin E,” and studies are emerging that suggest tocotrienols, found in palm, rice bran and barley oils, could be the most important part of vitamin E. And a form of vitamin E called full-spectrum vitamin E, which contains a mixture of tocopherols and tocotrienols, may be needed to protect against disease and provide maximum benefits.
I believe that, ideally, vitamin E should be consumed in the broader family of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols – and that’s why I am now recommending a phenomenal mixed form of vitamin E from Carlson Labs called E-Gems Elite.
E-Gems Elite is an exclusive blend of all 8 forms (full spectrum) of natural source tocopherols and tocotrienols providing the antioxidant benefits of the entire family of vitamin E. E-Gems Elite provides 400 IU of vitamin E as d-alpha tocopherol, with the benefits of beta, delta, and substantial gamma tocopherols – plus their 4 corresponding tocotrienols.
Getting to know all the compounds in the vitamin E family of tocopherols and tocotrienols is necessary when choosing the right vitamin E product for the full benefits of this superior antioxidant and nutrient.
Important Facts You Should Know About Vitamin E
Vitamin E is essential to life – we cannot live without it.
How much vitamin E is enough?
Prominent researchers believe that to perform at its best, the body needs more than the US Daily Value (DV) of 30 IU vitamin E daily and the average American diet supplies considerably less than this amount. According to renown international researcher Dr. Evan Shute, a physician recognized for his over 30 years of work with vitamin E, average healthy females should have 400 IU a day, and average healthy males 600 IU a day.
Vitamin E should be taken at mealtime – it is absorbed better when taken with meals rather than an on an empty stomach.
Inorganic Iron, which is found in non-living substances – rock, minerals, etc.. can DESTROY vitamin E. According to the Shute Institute, the two should be separated in the stomach by an 8-9 hour interval. However, organic iron, found in spinach, and other iron rich foods can be taken at the same time as vitamin E.
Many vitamin E labels are misleading to the consumer. Some marketed vitamin E products labeled “natural” have been tested and found to contain either all synthetic vitamin E or only part natural vitamin E. You can avoid synthetic vitamin E products by choosing labels that print the following: Independently Assayed to Guarantee 100% Potency, 100% Natural-Source Vitamin E.
Natural & Synthetic Vitamin E: Your Body Knows the Difference!
Natural vitamin E is the single molecular configuration that occurs in nature. Synthetic vitamin E is a mixture of 8 molecular configurations, 7 of which occur when made by man. The vitamin E most often referred to and sold in stores is a synthetic form of vitamin E called dl-alpha-tocopherol–but I do not recommend this type of vitamin E.
Dr. Graham Burton, associated with the National Research Council of Canada, studied the body’s response to natural vitamin E compared to synthetic vitamin E. The study strongly indicates your body prefers natural vitamin E, showing that it is retained in your body many times longer than the synthetic vitamin E, with specific results showing:
5.3 times more natural vitamin E in the brain.
0.6 times more natural vitamin E in red blood cells.
2.6 times more natural vitamin E in the lungs.
2.4 times more natural vitamin E in the plasma
1.9 times more natural vitamin E in the heart
1.7 times more natural vitamin E in the muscles.
Why does your body prefer natural vitamin E?
Research scientist Maret Traber’s work indicates that the liver preferentially recycles the natural form of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol), causing the excretion of synthetic forms of other tocopherols.
Some researchers have questioned whether special configurations of tocopherol found only in synthetic vitamin E are actually a hindrance to the body because they tie up receptor sites, stopping the naturally occurring form of vitamin E from acting. This is like someone putting the wrong key into a lock. The right key cannot open the lock if the wrong key is in it.
Our food contains all eight compounds of vitamin E, but gamma tocopherol is actually the most commonly occurring natural form of vitamin E in the American diet. Gamma tocopherol in particular also has the ability to protect against nitrogen-based free radicals, which alpha tocopherol cannot do. Nitrogen free radicals play an important role in diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including cancer, heart disease and degenerative brain disorders.
There are natural ways to add more vitamin E in your diet, but hardly realistic to therapeutically prevent disease. The authors of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition review also point out that regular consumption of nuts, an excellent source of gamma tocopherol, has been associated with a significantly lower risk of having a heart attack and lower cardiovascular mortality.
Gamma tocopherol is abundant in nuts such as walnuts and pecans, and in the legume peanuts. Since in addition to gamma tocopherol nuts provide short-chain omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, fiber and other nutrients, this is one healthy way to increase your gamma tocopherol. Plus, most health food stores now offer walnuts and pecans in bulk at very affordable prices.
Corn oil, soybean oil and sesame oil are all rich sources of gamma tocopherol. But, when it comes to commercially available seed oils, the problem is toxic trans-fatty acids and excess omega-6 fatty acids. Both trans-fatty acids and excess omega-6 fatty acids have been found to promote various types of degenerative disorders. Therefore, I do not recommend these oils as a source of gamma tocopherol.
If you decide to supplement with vitamin E, you need to discuss it with your physician because some medicines react with vitamin E.
If you prefer to add the natural form of vitamin E to the diet, I suggest whole forms like walnut, natural peanut butter, flax seed ground (meal), almonds, avocados and whole grains. In addition, to eliminate excessive fat, I only recommend regular use of vitamin E in the oil form—extra virgin olive oil, uncooked, mainly used in salad dressings, topped on pastas after cooked, hummus, etc.
Am J Clin Nutr (1991 Apr) 53(4 Suppl):1068S-1070S Tocotrienols vs. Tocopherols.