What is Alpha-Tocopherol?

Synthia L. Rose

Alpha-tocopherol is one member of an eight-member family of bionutrients commonly known as vitamin E. It is an antioxidant that has been credited with boosting immunity, preventing aging, and possibly thwarting cancer and other diseases due to its ability to harness free radicals. This vitamin E form is also known for relieving and preventing inflammation.

Wheat germ is high in alpha-tocopherol.
Wheat germ is high in alpha-tocopherol.

Of all the forms of vitamin E, including gamma-tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol is believed to be the most bioavailable, which means the human body can process and use it more easily. Researchers are finding that the human body is likely to reject other forms of vitamin E. With alpha-tocopherol, however, the body is able to store it for long-term use.

Kale is high in vitamin E, which contains alpha-tocopherol.
Kale is high in vitamin E, which contains alpha-tocopherol.

There are natural and synthetic forms of alpha-tocopherol. Natural forms, which can only be created by plants, are listed on supplement bottles as RRR-alpha-tocopherol or d-a tocopherol. Nutritionists consider this the highest quality of vitamin E. Synthetic forms are described as dl-a-tocopheryl succinate or dl-a-tocopheryl acetate in vitamins or foods fortified with vitamin E.

Some researchers claim that the human body cannot tell the difference between synthetic and natural alpha-tocopherol. Nearly all studies, however, show that less than 50 percent of synthetic vitamin E is bioavailable to the body, whereas 100 percent of natural vitamin E is generally bioavailable. In multivitamins, synthetic alpha-tocopherol is often used because it is cheaper.

Besides being an antioxidant that protects against cellular damage, alpha-tocopherol has other benefits. Nutritionists claim it can improve circulation by strengthening blood vessels and making the vessels more malleable and elastic. This can allegedly help lower blood pressure and reduce the likelihood of blood clots. Another benefit is that alpha-tocopherol can reduce swelling by activating white blood cells and their healing response.

Many people smooth alpha-tocopherol over the face and neck to prevent wrinkles and to lighten age spots. Some researchers also claim this form of vitamin E can treat more than 80 ailments, including cataracts, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and prostate cancer. Diabetes and lung problems are also treated with alpha-tocopherol.

Most nutritionists recommend 10 to 15 mg of natural vitamin E a day to reap benefits. For synthetic vitamin E, roughly 200 to 400 international units (IU) are recommended. According to doctors, foods are the best way to get natural alpha-tocopherol. Wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, and spinach are particularly high in this antioxidant. Kale and seafood such as shrimp are also high in natural vitamin E.

Vitamin E can be taken as a supplement or in a multivitamin.
Vitamin E can be taken as a supplement or in a multivitamin.

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