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
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.
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.
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
- Wheat germ
- Vegetable oils
- Dried fruits