What's the difference between Alpha and Gamma and Tocopherol?
In order to answer the question correctly we need to review what Vitamin E is. Vitamin E is actually a family of essential fat-soluble nutrients that act as powerful antioxidants. In nature, there are eight substances that comprise vitamin E: alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta- tocopherols; and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta- tocotrienols. The four different isomers (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) from both the tocopherol and tocotrienol groups all have different biological activities and potential therapeutic benefits.
Research shows that d-alpha-tocopherol has the highest bioavailability and is the standard against which all the others must be compared. This is the only natural form of Vitamin E that is measured in International Units (IU). Human blood and tissue contains much more alpha-tocopherol than gamma-tocopherol even though gamma-tocopherol is the predominant form of vitamin E in our diet. That is because the body has a special preferred transport mechanism for alpha-tocopherol.
Is there any research on Gamma-tocopherol’s health benefits?
Research suggests its configuration enables it to better trap and quench reactive nitrogen oxide species (RNOS) such as peroxynitrate and nitrogen dioxide. These dangerous free radical compounds are formed in excess during an inflammatory episode. The structure of alpha-tocopherol does not allow it to bind these nitrogen compounds. Gamma-tocopherol’s ability to provide protection against these damaging RNOS makes it an extremely important weapon to protect cardiovascular health, brain tissue and normal cellular functions.
Gamma-tocopherol has been researched at the University of California, Berkeley and Children’s Hospital Oakland Institute and shown to have a COX-2 (cyclo-oxygenase 2) inhibitory effect on human epithelial cells, as well as the ability to inhibit PGE2 ( prostaglandin E-2) synthesis.
COX-2 is the bad guy enzyme that is found mainly in inflammatory conditions and generates the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins involved in cellular damage. By inhibiting COX-2 activity, gamma-tocopherol plays an important role in protecting the body.
What are tocotrienols?
Tocotrienols are the cousins of tocopherols that exhibit vitamin E antioxidant activity. Their chemical structure is different in that they have an unsaturated side-chain rather than the saturated side-chain of tocopherols. The unique molecular structure of tocotrienols allows them to be more efficiently and uniformly distributed into cell membranes and tissues that are high in unsaturated fatty acids, such as the brain and liver.
Plant oils are the best sources of both tocotrienols and tocopherols. Virgin palm oil is the best single source of tocotrienols, providing the four isomers, alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta. Although some studies performed on animals and humans have shown that certain tocotrienols have an ability to inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol, help regulate cholesterol production, and inhibit certain abnormal cell line growth, more clinical research is needed to validate the findings and translate them into a specific dose response.
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