Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vitamin E

As I was shopping for some vitamin E for Maya few nights ago, I came across a product review talking about the difference between "d-alpha" and "dl-alpha". It drew my attention and got me curious, so I ended up reading a lot more about vitamin E than I ever thought I would. I was surprised to learn that the vitamin E I've been giving myself, my parents, and my dog were of the most crappy ones.

Basically, there are two types of vitamin E: natural and synthetic. Synthetic vitamin E, labeled dl-alpha-tocopherol, is made from chemicals and is much less effective. To identify the natural form, which comes from plant oils, it should be labeled d-alpha-tocopherol. With no doubt, we want to stay away from the artificial ones and get the natural ones.

Furthermore, even though most vitamin E on the market contains only alpha-tocopherol, it's actually a complex of eight compounds, including alpha, beta, gamma, delta of tocopherols and tocotrienols. Because alpha-tocopherol is the most absorbable and the most active in human body, it has been assumed to be the most important. However, recent studies showed that gamma-tocopherols and tocotrienols may be more essential, and high dosage of alpha-tocopherol may actually decrease the effectiveness of others.

I remember reading about vitamin E causing cancers a while ago, which caused a bit panic within the household. I dug into this subject a bit more this time, and found out the study was actually based on using synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E in its natural from should still be beneficial and could help prevent cancer. Somehow very few news reports mentioned the details, while most of them went with very scary and dramatic titles.

In short, the quality of vitamin E, from bad to good, goes like this:
  • dl-alpha-tocopherol
  • d-alpha-tocopherol 
  • mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta-tocopherols)
  • full spectrum (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta- tocopherols and tocotrienols)


Most brands have dl-alpha products, especially the cheaper ones on the market. Bigger and/or better brands will also have d-alpha types. Just make sure to read the labels. For those who are sensitive to soy, do note that many natural vitamin E may come from soybean oil.

As for the other two types, it's a bit harder to find, and the price may also be few times more. Here are some I found with reasonable price and positive reviews. I am still not sure which one to purchase yet, but for sure I will stay away from the dl-alpha.

Mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta-tocopherols):

Full spectrum (d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma-, d-delta- tocopherols and tocotrienols):


Here are some links I found informative. As always, there will be some conflicting information.
For further reading, google with key words like: "d-alpha dl-alpha", "tocopherol tocotrienol", "vitamin E cause cancer", etc.


I am no expert in nutrition. This is just a summary of the limited things I read online as well as products that interested me but yet to try. Please do your own research before supplementing your dog, your family, or yourself.

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