Many people have heard of vitamin E, it is a familiar nutrient, yet when one considers further about it, there isn’t really much detail that one can recall specifically about vitamin E. So what is vitamin E?
Vitamin E represents a family of eight members comprising four tocopherol and four tocotrienol isoforms, respectively identified as alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol or tocotrienol. Tocotrienol is also called the unsaturated form of vitamin E as it has an unsaturated side chain (with three double bonds), whereas tocopherol has a fully saturated tail (no double bond).
It is this difference in “saturation” that confers certain unique and significant activities to tocotrienol, which are not exhibited by tocopherol.
In nature, tocopherols are found abundantly in vegetables, nuts or plant oils such as soybean, sun ower, olive, canola, corn and wheat germ oil. By contrast, tocotrienol is rather scarce. The richest natural source for tocotrienols is crude palm oil (Elaeis guineensis) – existing at levels of 500 – 800 mg/kg (Sundram K, et al., 2003), other minor sources of tocotrienols are rice bran, barley, and coconut.
General application of tocopherols and tocotrienols
Although both tocopherols and tocotrienols are commonly used in formulating food supplements, functional foods and drinks, as well as personal care products due to their antioxidant effects, formulators value tocotrienol for its unique health benefits not possessed by tocopherol, such as neuroprotection, liver health, cholesterol health, skin health and hair growth. These beneficial effects were discovered through research of a specially formulated tocotrienol complex that guaranteed oral absorption of up to 300% – the EVNol SupraBio™ (Ho D, et al., 2003).
This article is available in full in the 2017 Spring Supplement issue of Nutraceuticals Now