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Vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol groups together different compounds, including tocopherols and tocotrienols. The most important in humans is d-alpha tocopherol. One of the most important functions attributed to vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol is its antioxidant action. However, other functions unrelated to this action have also been observed. These include its effects on cell proliferation and phagocytic action in the immune system, which in turn are related to the vitamin’s effect as a messenger of the cellular oxidative state. At the same time, there is evidence of its relationship with apoptosis. With this study, the aim is to examine these functions of vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol in more detail because of its enormous potential for use in the therapy of medical and stomatological diseases.

The term vitamin E refers to a group of different antioxidant compounds:

  • Tocopherols (alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol)
  • Tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta-tocotrienol)

Alpha tocopherol (also called α-Tocopherol, or even a-tocopherol in case of problems with Greek characters) is a naturally occurring antioxidant of the tocopherol family. When referring to the natural form, it is the dextrorotatory stereoisomer called D-Alpha tocopherol, while the synthetic form is DL-Alpha Tocopherol.

Vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol is an essential dietary vitamin. It is a fat-soluble, highly antioxidant vitamin with the ability to neutralize free radicals. It reduces cell damage and therefore reduces cell aging. Alpha tocopherol has a higher vitamin activity than the other forms of vitamin E. The vitamin activity for D-alpha tocopherol is 100, while that of beta-tocopherol is 40, gamma-tocopherol 20, and the vitamin activity for delta-tocopherol is 1. The acetate form is an ester which is more stable than the unesterified tocopherols.

Functions of Vitamin E D-Alpha Tocopherol

Vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol has several metabolic functions. Among these, perhaps the most important and best-studied is its role in protecting biological membranes, either by preventing oxidation of their essential cellular components or by preventing the formation of toxic oxidation products such as peroxides of unsaturated fatty acids, thus acting as a stabilizer of the lipid structure of tissues. Its functions in relation to reproduction are well known. Vitamin E deficiency has also been linked to alterations in the muscular and cardiovascular system, especially in animals. It has also been recognized as having therapeutic effects in retrolental fibroplasia and intermittent claudication. In recent years, other vitamin E functions have been studied, such as a role in the synthesis of haem via delta-aminolevulinic acid synthase in the bone marrow; this is thought to be reduced in cases of vitamin E deficiency.

Other enzyme systems would also be altered in relation to this deficiency; for example, it has been found that the activity of hepatic xanthine oxidase is increased. However, the results are not yet conclusive, and it remains to be shown whether a particular enzymatic reaction has a specific requirement for d-alpha tocopherol. Vitamin E has also recently been recognized as having a protective effect against the action of certain toxic chemicals. In this respect, working groups are studying the prevention by vitamin E of the toxic effects of atmospheric pollution.


Excess Vitamin E. Symptoms vector
High levels of tocopherol appear to be relatively well tolerated in both animals and humans. However, at very high doses – a range of 1000 mg per day for adults, 600 mg per day for adolescents, and less than 450 mg for children and infants – vitamin E may antagonize the effects of other fat-soluble vitamins.

Symptoms of taking excessive amounts of vitamin E, most often through commercial food supplements, include dizziness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, high blood pressure, and even bleeding, as vitamin E has an anticoagulant effect.


Vitamin E deficiency signs and symptoms poster.
Vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol deficiency is rare in humans and is rarely associated with low intake problems. There are specific situations in which D-alpha tocopherol deficiency is found. It has been observed in people who cannot absorb the nutrient from the diet, in premature, low birth weight infants (less than 1.5kg), and also in rare metabolic disorders.

Individuals who cannot absorb fat will require vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol supplementation because its absorption from the gastrointestinal tract is directly dependent on it. People diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, liver disease, pancreatic insufficiency have problems with proper fat absorption and should supplement their diet with vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol. Other cases, such as gastrectomy patients, should also be supplemented.

Premature infants should also receive vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol. Abetalipoproteinaemia is a rare metabolic disease that causes low absorption of lipids and vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol. There is a rare genetic condition called isolated D-alpha tocopherol deficiency or ataxia with isolated deficiency, caused by a mutation in the gene encoding the protein that transfers tocopherol. Those individuals have an extremely poor ability to absorb vitamin E and develop reversible neurological complications following high doses of D-alpha tocopherol.

Deficiency of vitamin E D-alpha tocopherol can cause:

  • Nerve damage in muscles and loss of sensation
  • Loss of control of body movement
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Weakened immune system


Sources of Vitamin E D-Alpha Tocopherol
  • Wheat germ
  • Corn
  • Vegetable oils
  • Olives
  • Dried fruits 
  • Nuts
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Asparagus


We can conclude that an in-depth study of the various functions of vitamin E could in the future broaden its potential for therapeutic applications, both in the field of medical and stomatological diseases. The wide variety of disorders, in whose pathophysiology oxidative stress, immunological mechanisms, or the phenomenon of apoptosis play a central role, has increased interest in the study of the pharmacological properties of this compound.
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