Most of us do not realize is that there are many different forms of vitamin E. If you take a quick look at the label on your bottle of vitamin E or your multiple vitamin, you’ll probably see the words “d-alpha tocopherol.” For years, this term has been synonymous with vitamin E. In reality however, vitamin E is actually made up of eight different compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Because d-alpha tocopherol is found in the highest amounts and is extremely potent, it has typically been chosen for most if not all of the supplements that contain vitamin E. In addition, the vast majority of studies conducted on vitamin E have used d-alpha tocopherol.
Recently, many researchers and nutritionists have been taking a closer look at other forms of vitamin E, and they the overwhelming conclusion is that two other forms, d-beta tocopherol and d-gamma tocopherol, may also be especially beneficial to our health.
For example, decades ago when vitamin E was first discovered the d-beta form of tocopherol placed second behind only d-alpha tocopherol in helping to ensure that female rats had healthy litters. Without d-beta tocopherol, the mama rats were having trouble bringing their pregnancies to term.
In addition, a 1997 study found that taking large amounts of just d-alpha tocopherol may actually be harmful unless d-gamma tocopherol is also included. This is because d-alpha tocopherol can actually remove the d-gamma from the body. Researchers also discovered that although d-alpha tocopherol is an impressive antioxidant, it is actually the d-gamma form that goes out and captures and neutralizes the free radicals.
D-gamma tocopherol has also been linked to a reduction in congestive heart failure, hypertension, and other health conditions that are linked to fluid and electrolyte levels in the body.
While you should not feel you need to throw out your bottle of d-alpha tocopherol vitamin E, the next time you order a bottle you might want to consider the mixed tocopherols. With the addition of d-beta and d-gamma tocopherols, you can rest assured that you are getting the ultimate mix of this extremely healthful vitamin.
Papas, Andreas, The Vitamin E Factor, 1999, pages 6, 30-41