DL Alpha Tocopherol
vitamin E. Fortified breakfast cereals are also an important source of vitamin E in the United States. Although originally extracted from wheat germ oil, most natural vitamin E supplements are now derived from vegetable oils, usually soybean oil. Commercial vitamin E supplements can be classified into several distinct categories: fully synthetic vitamin E, "d,l-alpha-tocopherol", the most inexpensive, most commonly sold supplement form usually as the acetate ester; semisynthetic "natural source" vitamin E esters, the "natural source" forms used in tablets and multiple vitamins; highly fractionated natural d-alpha tocopherol; less fractionated "natural mixed tocopherols"; high gamma-tocopherol fraction supplements; and tocotrienol supplements. Synthetic vitamin E, usually marked as d,l-tocopherol or d,l tocopheryl acetate, with 50% d-alpha tocopherol moiety and 50% l-alpha-tocopherol moeity, as synthesized by an earlier process is now actually manufactured as all-racemic alpha tocopherol, with only about one alpha tocopherol molecule in 8 molecules as actual d-alpha tocpherol. The synthetic form is not as active as the natural alpha tocopherol form. The 1950's thalidomide disaster with numerous severe birth defects is a common example of d- vs l- epimer forms type problem with synthesized racemic mixtures. Information on any side effects of the synthetic vitamin E epimers is not readily available. Naturopathic and orthomolecular medicine advocates have long considered the synthetic vitamin E forms to be with little or no merit for cancer, circulatory and heart diseases. Semisynthetic "natural source" vitamin E, manufacturers convert the common natural beta, gamma and delta tocopherol isomers into esters using acetic or succinic acid and add methyl groups to yield d-alpha tocopheryl esters such as d-alpha tocopheryl acetate or d-alpha tocopheryl succinate. These tocopheryl esters are more stable and are easy to use in tablets and multiple vitamin pills. Because only alpha tocopherols were officially counted as "vitamin E" in supplements, refiners and manufacturers faced enormous economic pressure to esterify and methylate the other natural tocopherol isomers, d-beta-, d-gamma- and d-delta-tocopherol into d-alpha tocopheryl acetate or succinate. In the healthy human body, the semisynthetic forms are easily de-esterified over several days, primarily in the liver, but not for common problems in aged or ill patients. The Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin E is based on the alpha-tocopherol form because it is the most active, or usable, form as originally tested. Results of two national surveys, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III 1988-91) and the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (1994 CSFII) indicated that the dietary intake of most Americans does not provide the recommended intake for vitamin E. However, a 2000 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on vitamin E states that intake estimates of vitamin E may be low because energy and fat intake is often underreported in national surveys and because the kind and amount of fat added during cooking is often not known. The IOM states that most North American adults get enough vitamin E from their normal diets to meet current recommendations. However, they do caution individuals who consume low fat diets because vegetable oils are such a good dietary source of vitamin E. "Low-fat diets can substantially decrease vitamin E intakes if food choices are not carefully made to enhance alpha-tocopherol intakes".