Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that makes up a family of eight related compounds known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Alpha tocopherol and the other seven forms of vitamin E are powerful biological antioxidants. They protect living cells against the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of the body’s own metabolism. Free radicals can cause cell damage that may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Research shows that vitamin E may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease; boost immune system function; act as an antioxidant; enhance topical wound healing; and reduce cancer risk. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from the damage caused by free radicals. In addition, high doses decrease blood clotting which may reduce risk of heart disease.
Many different types of Vitamin E are used for supplementation. The natural form of vitamin E, d-alpha-tocopherol is superior to the synthetic, dl-alpha tocopherol, in terms of absorption and retention in the body. However, the synthetic “dl-” form is the most common form found in dietary supplements as it is the cheapest.
Other forms include a water soluble powder vitamin E succinate (d-alpha tocopherol succinate) which is efficiently absorbed even when taken on an empty stomach or with a low-fat meal. The non water soluble natural (d-) and synthetic (dl-) acetate forms of vitamin E are always a thick brown oil and poorly absorbed unless taken with several grams of fats or oils and should at least be formulated in an oil capsule. Vitamin E succinate is twice as expensive as soybean oil Vitamin E-acetate but it is more efficiently absorbed. The importance to the consumer is how well the vitamin E absorbs into the blood stream.
Research is now showing that the best way to take vitamin E is to use a combination of alpha, beta and gamma forms of Vitamin E which is known as mixed tocopherols. This is the most expensive form of Vitamin E so is rarely used in supplements. These are natural fat soluble forms of Vitamin E so are best taken with a meal to aid absorption.