Vitamin E is fat-soluble vitamin (the most abundant antioxidant stored in body fat) and is found in a variety of natural sources such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and whole grains. Vitamin E is primarily used as an antioxidant to protect cells against free radicals. Free radicals are created during metabolism and by environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides. Free radicals can damage cells, and has been suggested to contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Normally, the body can handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable, or if the free-radical production becomes excessive, damage can occur. Of particular importance is that free radical damage accumulates with age. Antioxidants act as scavengers, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to cellular damage and disease. (a)
Vitamin E in Skin Care
With regard to skin care, vitamin E is listed simply as “tocopherol.” It is used as an antioxidant to protect skin against pollutants and help prevent premature aging. It aids in protecting the skin and prevents moisture loss. Vitamin E can further encourage wound, burn and scar healing. Exposure to sunlight, however, can reduce the amount of vitamin E found on the skin.
At Salve, we use natural tocopherol in our products for the above reasons; but also because it is a natural preservative, delaying the onset of rancidity in fats and oils, extending product shelf life.
When you see the term “tocopherol acetate,” this is the synthetic form of Vitamin E. Synthetic tocopherol has also been linked to prostate cancer in men (when consumed orally).
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta
Vitamin E is the collective possession for a family of eight naturally occurring chemically related substances: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta.) Alpha tocopherol is the only one of these that is maintained in human blood; although gamma tocopherol is the major form of vitamin E found in the diet. (b)
Each tocopherol is a type of antioxidant. And as you now know, antioxidants can inhibit oxidation in cells, thereby reducing the risk of cell degradation and diseases like cancer. All four tocopherols are available in the food items mentioned above.
Why is it better to have a mix of tocopherols?
“Mixed” tocopherols are vitamin E products that contain not just the usual alpha tocopherol, but also the beta, delta, and gamma forms.
There is growing evidence that it is necessary to use all forms to get the most benefit out of vitamin E, and it may even be harmful to use a plain alpha tocopherol since it could displace some of the more beneficial gamma tocopherols in the diet. (c)
Benefits supplied by mixed tocopherols range from increased immunity to faster healing. They have also been implicated in stopping tissue inflammation. By consuming mixed tocopherols rather than just one type of tocopherol, a person can reap a wide variety of specialized benefits since each tocopherol has different abilities. (d)
Some of Salve’s products have a low-alpha mix of tocopherols that contain eight naturally occurring compounds (the fractions are called alpha, beta, delta, epsilon, eta, gamma and zeta tocopherol, and the four tocotrienols).
Content of Tocopherol in Salve Products:
d-alpha tocopherol: 20 max mg/g
d-beta tocopherol: 35 max mg/g
d-gamma tocopherol: 300 min mg/g
d-delta tocopherol: 80 min mg/g
Total Content Tocopherol: 500+ mg/g
Since the alpha tocopherol activity is most responsible for the effectiveness of the product, the potency of Vitamin E oil is measured by its alpha tocopherol content (e.g. d-alpha) While each of these compounds exhibits different biological activities, d-alpha tocopherol has the highest biological activity and is the most widely available form of vitamin E in food.
(f) Fuchs J, Huflejt ME, Rothfuss LM, Wilson DS, Carcamo G, Packer L. Acute effects of near ultraviolet and visible light on the cutaneous antioxidant defense system. Photochemistry and photobiology. 1989 Dec;50(6):739-44