When people think of Vitamin E, they often consider it in terms of one single element. It’s actually a collection of eight separate compounds that each provide unique health benefits. Whether you’re Vitamin E deficient or looking to boost your consumption for specific health reasons, there are several Vitamin E supplements on the market that contain either one of the eight compounds or some combination of them.
When you’re searching for the right Vitamin E supplement for you, the main thing to remember is that there’s a big difference between natural and synthetic forms. Always pay attention to what’s on the label and stick with the natural option. Read on to find out why.
Natural vs. synthetic Vitamin E
How do you tell the difference between natural vs. synthetic Vitamin E? You’ll notice the difference on the label. Natural Vitamin E is listed as d-alpha tocopherol, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate or d-alpha tocopheryl succinate. Synthetic forms are labeled with a dl- prefix. Your body will notice the difference, too, since there’s a big variance in how your body can absorb and utilize the nutrients from natural vs. synthetic forms.
Natural Vitamin E
When it comes to Vitamin E, natural is always better. The most biologically active form of Vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol, found in many Vitamin E-rich foods and pure Vitamin E supplements. It contains only one isomer which can assimilate in the body far better than synthetic Vitamin E can. Binding and transport proteins in the liver pick up this form of Vitamin E while largely ignoring other forms, and its molecular structure makes it much easier for the body to absorb.
Synthetic Vitamin E
Synthetic Vitamin E doesn’t come from a natural food source. Instead, it’s derived from petroleum products. Synthetic Vitamin E contains eight different isomers, and only one of those is identical to natural Vitamin E. In other words, the synthetic version of this vitamin is only about 12% as potent as the natural one. It’s also not as bioavailable, decreasing its potential for absorption in the body and further reducing its overall effectiveness.
Fractionated Vitamin E
Fractionated Vitamin E is found most-commonly in natural mixed tocopherols and high d-gamma tocopherol. When you take a supplement that contains mixed tocopherols, you’re receiving a mixture of several different types of Vitamin E.
While there are eight naturally occurring forms of Vitamin E, fractionated supplements usually contain some combination of the following:
- Alpha-tocopherol. This is the form of Vitamin E that’s received the most scrutiny and research, and most supplements advertised as “Vitamin E” typically have alpha-tocopherol. It’s orally bioavailable and protects tissues and organs from oxidative damage. Alpha-tocopherol is found in many foods, including green leafy vegetables, nuts and fruits. You’ll find high concentrations of alpha-tocopherol in oils, such as sunflower oil, corn oil, hazelnut oil, safflower oil and more.
- Gamma-Tocopherol. Many plant seeds contain this form of Vitamin E, but it doesn’t receive the attention that alpha-tocopherol does. Studies indicate that gamma-tocopherol may possess unique features that make it much different from alpha-tocopherol, providing possible health benefits that are still unknown.
- Tocotrienals. Typically found in cereal grains, tocotrienols are a type of Vitamin E nutrient that may lower cholesterol and provide other heart health benefits. Natural tocotrienols are also available in supplement form as capsules or pills, making them easy to incorporate into your everyday routine. Some experts even believe that tocotrienols may have even more healthy benefits than other sources of Vitamin E, including common tocopherols.
Quality matters above all else
If your doctor suggests including a Vitamin E supplement in your diet, it pays to do some research and find the best product for your needs. As stated, it’s always smart to choose an all-natural product. Whether you’re looking for a supplement that contains only tocotrienols or you want the typical alpha-tocopherol form of Vitamin E, going natural is the only way to get the most from these supplements.
Not only are the natural versions significantly more potent, your body absorbs natural Vitamin E much easier and more effectively than synthetic alternatives. While there’s usually not much of a difference between natural and synthetic forms of most vitamins, Vitamin E is one exception. In this case, natural is significantly better.
That said, it’s worth understanding the many different options for Vitamin E out there. The more you know, the more comfortable you’ll be when it comes to selecting a supplement that best-suits your needs—whether you’re looking for pure alpha-tocopherol or a fractionated mixture.