Tocopheryl Acetate: What Is It and What’s It Doing in Your Food?

Vitamin e softgels spilled from brown bottle

Alpha-tocopheryl acetate or ATA is an acetic acid ester of tocopherol, which is vitamin E. We parse out the chemical origins below, along with what this specific form of vitamin E is used for in your food, certain cosmetic products, and various dietary supplements.

What Is Tocopheryl Acetate?

Let’s start with the basics of where this compound comes from with a few definitions you can refer back to.

  • Tocopherol: This is a category of naturally occurring forms of vitamin E found in foods like egg yolks, wheat germ oil, leafy vegetables, and vegetable oils. These are fat-soluble vitamins with antioxidant properties that can also be made synthetically in a laboratory setting.
  • Tocotrienols: These are similar to tocopherols except for the addition of double-bonded chemicals on their molecular side chains. Tocotrienols are also found in nature, and compounds that are made up of both tocopherols and tocotrienols are the most complete form of vitamin E.
  • Tocopheryl acetate (TA): This is the synthetic form of tocopherol used as a food additive and cosmetic ingredient to keep oils from becoming rancid as an antioxidant.
  • Alpha-tocopherol acetate (ATA): This is the most active form of vitamin E for human use when compared to the beta-, gamma-, and delta- forms, and it is often found in health supplements and multivitamins.
  • Other names: ATA may be found on ingredients lists as vitamin E acetate, tocopherol acetate, or tocopheryl acetate.

While one comes from nature and the other is synthetic, “natural tocopherol” on your ingredients list may still have been artificially created from natural sources.

What Is Tocopheryl Acetate?

Where Is Tocopheryl Acetate?

Tocopheryl acetate is used in a wide variety of products, including:

  • Skincare moisturizers, skin-conditioning agents, and other personal care products
  • Moisturizing sunscreens and cosmetics that block UV rays (especially effective when combined with vitamin C)
  • Vegetable oils to reduce oxidation, rancidity, and as a preservative to promote a longer shelf life
  • Dietary supplements and multivitamins as an antioxidant to fight oxidation and free radical damage
  • Fortified foods like cereals, juices, milks, and milk alternatives

Free radical damage can come from air pollution and cigarette smoke, unprotected contact with UV light, and from the natural breakdown and metabolism of food into energy in your body. The antioxidant activity of vitamin E forms like tocopheryl acetate can benefit your health both internally and externally.

The Benefits of Vitamin E and Tocopheryl Acetate

We here at VeggieShake include tocopheryl acetate as an ingredient in our products for the optimal power of vitamin E. We do so because vitamin E plays incredibly important roles in human health, including the following benefits.

1. Eye Health

The antioxidant actions of vitamin E help protect our eyes from the damage of free radicals, which means vitamin E may be an important key in preventing cataract formation or the progression of age-related macular degeneration. A study commissioned by the National Eye Institute found that a high dose of vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, and beta-carotene helped reduce the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration by 25% among a high-risk population.

Another study found that a combination of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E contributed to a slight decrease in cataract progress over a period of 3 years. And more recently, a large 2013 study made up of 4,000 patients with age-related macular degeneration found once again that a combination of zinc, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E helped slow the progression of the damage.

While these studies do feature vitamin E in concert with other eye-health compounds, the results still indicate it’s part of a natural cocktail of nutrients that benefit eye health in the most fundamental ways.

2. Cell Longevity

The power of antioxidants like vitamin E can help protect the lifespan of our cells. While our bodies are built to repair and regenerate damaged cells, as we age those repair processes slow down, and as they slow our bodies become back-logged with suboptimal cells.

This slow-down begins in all of us after the age of 25, and while a few weakened cells here or there won’t kill you, the long-term amalgamation of these tiny damages leads to increased levels of inflammation and cellular debris, which are linked directly to the exacerbation of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, atherosclerosis, inflammatory joint disease, degenerative eye disease, senile dementia, and cancer.

Vitamin E has been shown to benefit those suffering oxidative stress due to free radicals, and while some research indicates that vitamin E is “nothing more” than an antioxidant, more recent research on alpha-tocopherol concludes “alpha-tocopherol merits a concern beyond its mere antioxidant properties.”

Free radical damage is a known threat to our health in many aspects, and forms of vitamin E serve as powerful antioxidants and possibly more.

3. Other Conditions

While the research is not yet definitive on any of these conditions, it’s nevertheless indicative of vitamin E’s power that it has been researched in the areas of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and cognitive decline conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Cautions for Vitamin E Supplementation

Because vitamin E is found naturally in our food, most people do not experience any significant side effects from consuming it at the daily recommended level of 15 milligrams. However, when supplementing with vitamins, it is possible to consume a high dose of vitamin E (in excess of 1,000 milligrams), in which case you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Keep in mind that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not carefully monitor over-the-counter dietary supplements. Outside of skincare products that you don’t consume, if you’re taking dietary vitamin E supplements, it’s all the more important to stay vigilant regarding the levels of all ingredients in the supplements you choose.

Natural Food Sources of Vitamin E

If you’re at all worried about supplemental, synthetic sources of vitamin E, here are the foods that contain natural sources of vitamin E you can consume more often to get this vital nutrient.

  • Sunflower seeds: These seeds are also full of phosphorus, manganese, selenium, vitamin B6, and copper, plus the zinc which (the above-linked studies show) works with vitamin E for eye health.
  • Nuts: Whether it’s peanuts or almonds, nuts are dense with heart-healthy nutrients, and sanctioned by the Mayo Clinic as beneficial to your health.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains like those found in sprouted bread benefit blood sugar control and digestive health, and provide a superior nutrient profile to refined grains like white rice and flour.
  • Leafy green vegetablesGreen, leafy veggies like spinach and kale contain vitamin E along with high amounts of vitamin K and C, two more antioxidant contributors to overall health.
  • Certain fruits: Fruits like mango and kiwi are full of vitamin A (also good for retinal health), potassium, and vitamin C along with natural vitamin E content.

And don’t forget: fortified foods, drinks, and health shakes like our own products also contain vitamin E to provide comprehensive nutrition in a busy modern world.

Vitamin E by Any Other Name

Tocopheryl acetate is vitamin E by another name, and is a natural or naturally derived nutrient that can be found in skincare products, healthy foods, and vitamin supplements galore. If you’re on any medications, be sure to ask your doctor before supplementing with vitamin E products, but if you just want to increase your vitamin E intake with whole foods, it can do no harm and may bring you substantial health benefits.

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