Natural vitamin E is not necessarily natural. Soy or corn based tocopherols are chemically changed to the (RRR- or d-) alpha-tocopherol via the addition of one or two methyl groups to either the gamma- or delta-tocopherol isomers respectively. This C5 methyl addition is the primary chemical process.
This gets even more interesting when it is realized that the real vitamin E is actually a collection of 8 different isoforms belonging to two categories, four saturated analogues (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) called tocopherols and four unsaturated analogues referred to as tocotrienols.
All 8 forms have different activities and research is presently being carried out which looks at the physiological functions of tocotrienols in the treatment of tumour suppression, osteogenesis, cardiovascular disease, obesity, thrombus antagonistic action, renal diseases, immunomodulation, endocrine diseases, neurological diseases, ophthalmologic diseases and liver disease.
Many studies have shown that the tocotrienols exhibit antioxidant, antiproliferative, antisurvival, proapoptotic, antiangiogenic and anti-inflammatory activities.
Human studies have shown that the tocotrienols have a huge impact on cardiovascular health and this is demonstrated by positive changes in serum lipids, including reduction in LDL cholesterol, decreased cholesterol sythesis by down regulation of HMGCoA reductase, elevation in HDLcholesterol, reduction in hepatic triglyceride synthesis and VLDL secretion, reduction in serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and advanced glycation end products and expression of cell adhesion molecules.
Bharat B. Aggaral et al. Tocotrienols, the vitamin E of the 21st century: Its potential against cancer and other chronic diseases. Biochem Pharmacol 2010 Dec 1, 80(11);1613-1631
Prasad K. Tocotrienols and cardiovascular health. Curr Pharm Des 2011;17(21):2147-54
Elson CE, Qureshi AA. Coupling the cholesterol- and tumour-suppressive actions of palm oil to the impact of its minor constituents on the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase activity. Prostaglandins Leuct Essent Fatty Acids 1995 Feb-Mar;52(2-3):205-7
Zaiden N,et al. Gamma delta tocotrienols reduce hepatic triglyceride synthesis and VLDL secretion. J Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis 17(10):1019-103
Nature offers many different families of phytonutrients such as carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenolics. The same applies to micronutrient minerals, trace elements and vitamins. When we isolate one member of a family of phyto- or micro- nutrients we move from the field of nutritional biochemistry to the field of pharmacology ie drugs. These nutrient families have existed in nature in various amounts and proportions for thousands of years and our biochemistry and physiology has evolved in this environment. It is important to maintain this balance when supplementing with specific products to gain the maximum synergistic effect. Vitamin E has suffered from this isolation since it was synthesized in 1938. Only now do we have the chance to rectify this oversight and restore vitamin E to its original balance.