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Vitamin E
Chemical Structures
Food Sources
Vitamin E in the Body

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Vitamin E Crystals
Vitamin E Crystals
Copied without permission from Roche Product Information

Vitamin E

The name Vitamin E covers a collection of eight fat soluble compounds, tocopherols (methyl derivatives of tocol) and tocotrienols:
  • alpha-Tocopherol - the most common and biologically active (5,7,8,-trimethyltocol)
  • beta-Tocopherol (5,8,-trimethyltocol)
  • gamma-Tocopherol (7,8,-trimethyltocol)
  • delta-Tocopherol (8,-trimethyltocol)
  • alpha-Tocotrienol
  • beta-Tocotrienol
  • gamma-Tocotrienol
  • delta-Tocotrienol

Did You Know? The word tocopherol comes from the Greek words tocos (childbirth) and pherein (to bring forth), after the essential role vitamin E plays in animal reproduction. The ending -ol is the standard chemical name ending for an alcohol.

Did You Know?The antioxidant property of vitamin E is exploited when it is used as a stabliser in oil and fat containing foods.

Did You Know? Vitamin E is used in cosmetics and skin products to prevent cell damage by UV light.

Did You Know? Tocopherol is used in many pharmaceutical products as a stabiliser

Did You Know? Some plastics, technical oils and greases contain alpha-Tocopherol as an antioxidant.


Chemical Structures

The Chemical Structure of alpha-

Fig.1 The Chemical Structure of alpha-Tocopherol
3D Structure of alpha-Tocopherol

The Chemical Structure of alpha-Tocotrienol

Fig.2 The Chemical Structure of alpha-Tocotrienol


Principal Sources in Food

The most important sources of vitamin E are:
  • Vegetable Oils, including:
    • Soya
    • Palm
    • Corn
    • Safflower
    • Sunflower
    • Wheat germ
  • Nut oils
Other sources include:
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Chick peas
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sweetcorn
  • Red peppers
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Vitamin E in the Body

Stored mainly in the fatty (adipose) tissues, the liver and in muscles, the principal role of vitamin E is as a powerful antioxidant, protecting body cells from the detrimental effects of free radicals and protecting unsaturated lipids against oxidation. Together with vitamin A and vitamin C, it forms the trio of antioxidant vitamins which are thought to help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E is also important in:
  • Prolonging the life of red blood cells
  • Helping the body make the best use of vitamin A
  • Protecting body membranes
  • Reproduction
Depletion of body stores of vitamin E takes a long time so deficiency is rare.



Vitamin E is sensitive to heat, light and oxygen and significant losses have been found after relatively short times of food storage.



"Vitamin E derived from natural sources is obtained by molecular distillation and, in most cases, subsequent methylation and esterification of edible vegetable oil products. Synthetic vitamin E is produced from fossil plant material by condensation of trimethylhydroquinone with isophytol." (1)


(1) Source: Roche Product information

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