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Mol Aspects Med. 2018 Jun;61:92-103. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2017.06.004. Epub 2017 Jun 19.

Many tocopherols, one vitamin E.

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Vascular Biology Laboratory, JM USDA-HNRCA at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA. Electronic address:


Four tocopherols are available in nature and are absorbed with the diet, but only one RRR-α-tocopherol satisfies the criteria of being a vitamin. The biological activity of the different tocopherols studied in the rat by the resorption-gestation test has been inconsistently extrapolated to human beings where the tocopherols have no influence on a successful pregnancy. Diminution of RRR-α-tocopherol intake results in diseases characterized by ataxia, whose pathogenetic mechanism, despite vigorous claims, has not been clarified. The calculation of the Daily Reference Intake (DRI), necessary to prevent disease, is based on an obsolete test, the peroxide-induced erythrocyte hemolysis, called the gold standard, but of highly questioned validity. If many epidemiological studies have given positive results, showing prevention by high vitamin E containing diets of cardiovascular events, neurodegenerative disease, macular degeneration and cancer, the clinical confirmatory intervention studies were mostly negative. On the positive side, besides preventing vitamin E deficiency diseases, vitamin E has shown efficacy as anti-inflammatory and immune boosting compound. It has also shown some efficacy in protecting against nonalcoholic hepato-steatosis. At a molecular level, vitamin E and some of its metabolites have shown capacity of regulating cell signaling and modulating gene transcription.


AVED; Antioxidants; Ataxia; Cancer; Cell signaling; Free radicals; Gene transcription; Immune response; Inflammation; Kinase; NASH; Non-antioxidant; Reference intake; Tocopherols; Vitamin E


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