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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


EFSA Affirms Safety and Benefits of Vitamin E

By Michael McBurney

The Scientific Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources issued a scientific opinion that all forms of vitamin E, natural and synthetic, are not of safety concern at the levels used in food. They set a upper limit (UL) of 300 mg daily.

The Panel recommended re-assessing the data on other tocopherols, namely γ-tocopherol and δ-tocopherol, as more data become available.

Within 5-15 minutes of absorption, lipoprotein lipase acts  on chylomicrons and apoliprotein E receptors in liver and peripheral cells begin clearing vitamin E in chylomicron remnants from blood. The only form of vitamin E that leaves the liver to appear in blood is α-tocopherol (Traber). Most of the other forms of vitamin E (β-, γ- and δ-tocopherol) are either not absorbed or are absorbed and excreted as bile into the gut and then via the feces. For this reason, the vitamin E requirement is based on α-tocopherol.

Two-thirds of Americans have suboptimal serum α-tocopherol concentrations (< 30 µmol/L). As circulating vitamin E concentrations drop below 30 µmol/L, Wright et al (2006) reported significantly increased risk of mortality. Insufficient vitamin E intake may contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver found more commonly among the overweight and obese.

Hopefully the EFSA scientific opinion will increase research interest in exploring the role of vitamin E status in diseases of the mind and liver.

Main Citation

Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of tocopherol-rich extract (E 306), α-tocopherol (E 307), γ-tocopherol (E 308) and δ-tocopherol (E 309) as food additives. 2015 EFSA J doi: 10.2903.j.efsa.2015.4247

Other Citations

Bjorneboe A, Bjorneboe G-E, Drevon CA. Absorption, transport and distribution of vitamin E. 1990 J Nutr 120(3):233-242

Lebold KM, Ang A, Traber MG, Arab L. Urinary α-carboxyethyl hydroxchroman can be used as a predictor of α-tocopherol adequacy, as demonstrated in the Energetics Study. 2012 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.038620

McBurney MI, Yu EA, Ciappio ED, Bird JK, Eggersdorfer M, Mehta S. Suboptimal serum α-tocopherol concentrations observed among younger adults and those depending exclusively upon food sources. 2015 PLOS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135510

Wright ME, Lawson KA, Weinstein SJ, Pietinen P, Taylor PR, Virtamo J, Albanes D. Higher baseline serum concentrations of vitamin E are associated with lower total and cause-specific mortality in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. 2006. AJCN 84(5):1200-1207

Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, Vertrees JE, Pallaki M, Llorente M, Love S, Schellenberg GD, McCarten JR, Malphurs J, Prieto S, Chen P, Loreck DJ, Trapp G, Bakshi RS, Mintzer JE, Heidebrink JL, Vidal-Cardona A, Arroyo LM, Cruz AR, Zacharian S, Kowall NW, Chopra MP, Craft S, Thielke S, Turvey CL, Woodman C, Monnell KA, Gordon K, Tomaska J, Segal Y, Peduzzi NP, Guarino PD. Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer Disease – the TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. 2014 JAMA doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.282834

Sato K, Gosho M, Yamamoto T, Kobayashi Y, Ishii N, Ohashi T, Nakade Y, Ito K, Fukuzawa Y, Yoneda M. Vitamin E has a beneficial effect on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. 2015 Nutrition doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.11.018