, Volume 23, Issue 9, pp 834–840 | Cite as

Comparison of free α-tocopherol and α-tocopheryl acetate as sources of vitamin E in rats and humans

  • Graham W. Burton
  • Keith U. Ingold
  • David O. Foster
  • Shee C. Cheng
  • Ann Webb
  • Lise Hughes


The uptake of α-tocopherol from 2R,4′R,8′R-α-tocopherol and 2R,4′R,8′R-α-tocopheryl acetate has been compared in rats and humans. The two forms of vitamin E were compared simultaneously in each subject (rat and human) by using a combination of deuterium-substitution and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to distinguish and measure the competitive uptake of α-tocopherol from an orally ingested mixture of the acetate and the free phenol forms. When rats were dosed in a manner analogous to that used in traditional bioassays, i.e., providing the two forms of vitamin E one daily in tocopherol-stripped corn oil for four successive days immediately prior to sacrifice, the net uptake of α-tocopherol from the free phenol form was only half that from the acetate. This result is consistent with the greater activity of the acetate that had been observed previously in bioassays. However, when the two forms of tocopherol were intubated into rats as a single dose mixed in with an aqueous bolus of standard laboratory diet, the amount of α-tocopherol taken up from the free form after 24 hr was very similar to that derived from the acetate. In five adult humans, competitive uptake studies of the two forms after a single dose taken with a meal showed that the amount of α-tocopherol from the free phenol form was equal to that from the acetate in plasma and red blood cells. These findings illustrate the value and potential of using deuterium-substituted α-tocopherol and GC-MS in evaluating the effectiveness of different forms of vitamin E in human studies. The results also stress the need for caution in using data obtained from animal bioassays when considering comparative human nutritional standards.


Tocopherol High Performance Liquid Chromatography Free Phenol Tocopheryl Acetate Competitive Uptake 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



α-tocopheryl acetate




ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid








sodium dodecyl sulfate


gas chromatography-mass spectrometry


high performance liquid chromatography


red blood cells


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Copyright information

© American Oil Chemists’ Society 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham W. Burton
    • 1
  • Keith U. Ingold
    • 1
  • David O. Foster
    • 2
  • Shee C. Cheng
    • 1
  • Ann Webb
    • 1
  • Lise Hughes
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of ChemistryNational Research CouncilOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesNational Research CouncilOttawaCanada

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