Analyzing the Different Forms of Vitamin E

Ask the Wellness Educator

My question has to do with the differences and benefits of the many forms of vitamin E. It seems like what I have heard most about in the past are tocopherols. Now I am reading about tocotrienols. Do these forms of E usually come together in a supplement? How do tocotrienols differ in their benefits from those of the tocopherols? What do you recommend?

Thank you for your helpfulness.

Phyllis (Mrs. Verne) Leininger

Dr. Jen's Answer:

Dear Phyllis,

Thank you for your detailed question about a confusing topic. You are correct that in the past, supplements were focused mainly on tocopherols, and specifically alpha tocopherol. In fact, if you purchase a supplement labeled "Vitamin E"," it is most likely only alpha-tocopherol. If the back of the label says "DL-alpha tocopherol," it is synthetic and should generally be avoided.

Scientists now emphasize the importance of all four forms (isomers) of tocopherols and four forms of tocotrienols that comprise vitamin E. The four isomers for each type are alpha, beta, delta, and gamma and all have antioxidant properties. However, it appears that the tocotrienols are almost 50-times more potent in their antioxidant activity. Delta and gamma tocotrineols are the most potent antioxidants, and are a good choice for supporting heart health, arterial health, healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and other conditions that benefit from high-potency antioxidants.

Of the tocopherols, the gamma isomer is thought to be the most potent antioxidant, and the best choice for cell protection.

The ideal vitamin E formula contains all eight isomers, but it isn't easy to find such a product. Yasoo's Vitamin E Factor 400/400 contains 400 IU of alpha tocopherol, 273 mg of gamma tocopherol, 97 mg of beta and delta tocopherol combined, plus 36 mg of natural tocotrienols. Another good choice is to use a product that is mostly tocotrienols, and combine it with your favorite tocopherol product. Carlson's Tocotrienols provides the full spectrum of tocotrienols from palm oil concentrate, along with alpha-tocopherol.

Tocopherols are typically derived from soy oil and tocotrienols are derived from palm, rice bran, and annatto oil. It is best to use a vitamin E product that is in an oil base in a softgel, because it is lipid soluble and better absorbed in this form.


Dr. Jen