, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 671-701

The chemistry and antioxidant properties of tocopherols and tocotrienols

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Abstract

This article is a review of the fundamental chemistry of the tocopherols and tocotrienols relevant to their antioxidant action. Despite the general agreement that α-tocopherol is the most efficient antioxidant and vitamin E homologuein vivo, there was always a considerable discrepancy in its “absolute” and “relative” antioxidant effectivenessin vitro, especially when compared to γ-tocopherol. Many chemical, physical, biochemical, physicochemical, and other factors seem responsible for the observed discrepancy between the relative antioxidant potencies of the tocopherolsin vivo andin vitro. This paper aims at highlighting some possible reasons for the observed differences between the tocopherols (α-, β-, γ-, and δ-) in relation to their interactions with the important chemical species involved in lipid peroxidation, specifically trace metal ions, singlet oxygen, nitrogen oxides, and antioxidant synergists. Although literature reports related to the chemistry of the tocotrienols are quite meager, they also were included in the discussion in virtue of their structural and functional resemblance to the tocopherols.