Caption: Vitamin E (tocopherol) crystals. Vitamin E (tocopherol) is a fat-soluble (lipophilic) vitamin that is an important antioxidant. Natural vitamin E exists in eight different forms or isomers, four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Each form has its own biological activity, the measure of potency or functional use in the body. Alpha-tocopherol is traditionally recognized as the most active form of vitamin E in humans, and is a powerful biological antioxidant. The other isomers are slowly being recognized as research begins to elucidate their additional roles in the human body. Commercially available blends of natural vitamin E include "mixed tocopherols" and "high gamma tocopherol" formulas. Antioxidants such as vitamin E act to protect cells against the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of the body's metabolism. Free radicals can cause cell damage that may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vegetable oils, nuts, wheat germ and green leafy vegetables are the main dietary sources of vitamin E. Abetalipoproteinemia is a rare inherited disorder of fat metabolism that results in poor absorption of dietary fat and vitamin E. The vitamin E deficiency associated with this disease causes problems such as poor transmission of nerve impulses, muscle weakness, and degeneration of the retina that can cause blindness. Antioxidants such as vitamin E help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals, which may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer. Vitamin E also may block the formation of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens formed in the stomach from nitrites consumed in the diet. It also may protect against the development of cancers by enhancing immune function.
Magnification*: x40
Type: LM
Copyright 1985 Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.
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