, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 671–701 | Cite as

The chemistry and antioxidant properties of tocopherols and tocotrienols

  • Afaf Kamal-Eldin
  • Lars-Åke Appelqvist


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.


Tocopherol Singlet Oxygen HONO Peroxy Radical Tocotrienols 



electron spin resonance


low density lipoprotein


nitric oxide


polyunsaturated fatty acids


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Copyright information

© AOCS Press 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Afaf Kamal-Eldin
    • 1
  • Lars-Åke Appelqvist
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Food Chemistry, Department of Food ScienceSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden

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