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The Life Extension Foundation had, as long back as 1994, cautioned against taking the alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E on its own, which could result in displacing vital gamma tocopherol in the body. Whereas alpha tocopherol plays a role in inhibiting the propagation of new free radicals, gamma tocopherol is essential for trapping and neutralizing the existing free radicals. This announcement was followed by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health issuing the results of a large study conducted on 10,456 males in 2000. The surprising outcomes of this study revealed that males having the highest gamma tocopherol blood levels had a reduced risk of prostate cancer by as much as five times. This study also established that though selenium and alpha tocopherol were also instrumental in reducing the risk of prostate cancer, this was possible only if levels of gamma tocopherols were high. Further, though a multitude of studies undertaken ever since have emphasized on the considerable significance of gamma tocopherol in humans, a major proportion of human clinical research has been focused on alpha tocopherol alone.
Vitamin E in the form of alpha tocopherol has for long been held in esteem as a powerful antioxidant, though its lesser known counterpart, gamma tocopherol, could be of equal significance in advancing wellbeing and safeguarding against diseases. Scientific studies have recognized that gamma tocopherol, in contrast to alpha tocopherol, offers a powerful defense against compounds that aggravate diseases in the body, which are called reactive nitrogen oxides. Gamma tocopherol has also been found to be effective in reducing inflammation, regulating factors that protect against some cancers and activating genes that play a role in defending against Alzheimer’s disease. The perceived variations in the biological efficacies of gamma tocopherol and alpha tocopherol can be accounted for by the unique chemical properties that distinguish these two categories of vitamin E. One such distinction enables gamma tocopherol to be more effective in capturing toxic compounds, such as reactive nitrogen oxides that need to be eliminated from the body. Current research has suggested the key role played by accumulation of reactive nitrogen oxides in body tissues in the etiology of a range of degenerative diseases.
The biological significance of gamma, as well as other forms of tocopherols have not been accorded due attention until the recent past. This has been further substantiated by excluding tocopherols from the new dietary reference intakes put forth by the US Food and Nutrition Board. While the US dietary reference intake defines addressing vitamin E activity by considering intake of only alpha tocopherol, the same does not hold for the European Union, where gamma tocopherol constitutes a vital component of recommendations for nutrients in several EU member countries. This decision by the US Food and Nutrition Board has invalidated the collective efforts of over 30 years of research that has been consistent in pointing out the distinctive nutritional role played by gamma tocopherol. Though its ubiquity in nature is unbounded, gamma tocopherol’s contributions in enhancing human health have been taken too lightly. Nevertheless, major industry players and researchers are maintaining hope that gamma tocopherols would be given their due recognition in recommendations of dietary intake very soon. On the other hand, leading manufacturers of vitamin supplements have been introducing vitamin E supplements having high content of gamma tocopherol, prominent among them being Source Naturals, Life Extension, Now Foods and Puritan’s Pride, among others. SourceOne is a major formulator that provides vitamin E formulations with high gamma content.
In conclusion, it can be said that this marked shift towards gamma tocopherols from alpha tocopherols bodes well for the former to increase its market share significantly at the cost of the latter over the coming years.