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What Are Mixed Tocopherols?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Mixed tocopherols are a combination of the four tocopherols present in vitamin E: delta tocopherol, alpha tocopherol, gamma tocopherol and beta tocopherol. Some mixed tocopherol supplements may not contain all four tocopherols but instead might combine two or three in various concentrations; in rare cases, a manufacturer may market a synthetic form of alpha tocopherol by itself as a mixed tocopherol. Each tocopherol is a type of antioxidant, which is a substance that can inhibit oxidation in cells, thereby reducing the risk of cell degradation and diseases like cancer. Natural forms of all four tocopherols are available in leafy green vegetables, nuts, wholegrain foods and sunflower oils.

Benefits supplied by mixed tocopherols range from increased immunity to faster healing. They have also been implicated in stopping tissue inflammation. By consuming mixed tocopherols rather than just one type of tocopherol, a person can reap a wide variety of specialized benefits since each tocopherol has different abilities.

For example, alpha tocopherol is considered by scientists to be the most powerful tocopherol, providing the most reliable buffer against the free radicals responsible for oxidation and cell destruction. Due to this reason, it is rarely excluded from mixed tocopherol combinations; nearly all vitamin E supplements containing mixed tocopherols are anchored on high concentrations of alpha-tocopherol. Notably, this antioxidant is also the only tocopherol that the human body maintains and stores in its tissues. This happens because a special transfer protein in the body recognizes alpha tocopherol and absorbs it into lipoproteins so that it circulates through the bloodstream. Alpha tocopherol has been credited with preventing heart disease and improving neurological disorders and various chronic diseases.

Gamma tocopherol is unique because it is generally the primary source of vitamin E consumed in foods due to the prevalence of contemporary corn-based and soy-based diets. Tests show it does not block free radicals as alpha tocopherol does, but may offer minor healing of cell damage by the radicals. Scattered research also suggests gamma tocopherol is the best tocopherol to stave off cancer of the prostate and might also be the best antioxidant for inflammation. Gamma tocopherol is usually the second most included antioxidant in mixed tocopherol preparations. While the body does metabolize gamma tocopherols, scientific studies suggest that little of this antioxidant is actually stored or needed by the body; therefore, it is often excreted.

Beta tocopherol is associated with balancing metabolism and reducing risk of reproductive organ cancer. Delta tocopherol’s significance to the human body remains nebulous to scientists. For people looking beyond diet for mixed tocopherols, doctors recommend against buying each tocopherol separately since too much of one may inhibit effectiveness of another. Single-serving supplements that combine mixed tocopherols typically blend of all the antioxidants in the most effective ratios.

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Discussion Comments

By anon924340 — On Jan 03, 2014

The author left out that a fair number of people have skin reactions to products containing mixed tocopherols, and reactions upon eating products with them.

It's probably not a reaction to the protein of the soy plant it is typically derived from, and possibly is due to remnants of the many steps of processing with harsh solvents and other chemicals that may still end up in the final product.

For example, Cheerios uses a blend that many people react to, but at least in the United States, General Mills has to label the product as containing mixed tocopherols rather than just saying it contains vitamin E. They are related, but they are not the same things.

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