Gamma-tocopherol--an underestimated vitamin?

Ann Nutr Metab. 2004;48(3):169-88. doi: 10.1159/000079555. Epub 2004 Jul 12.


The main research activities of the last decades on tocopherols were mainly focused on alpha-tocopherol, in particular when considering the biological activities. However, recent studies have increased the knowledge on gamma-tocopherol, which is the major form of vitamin E in the diet in the USA, but not in Europe. gamma-Tocopherol provides different antioxidant activities in food and in-vitro studies and showed higher activity in trapping lipophilic electrophiles and reactive nitrogen and oxygen species. The lower plasma levels of gamma- compared to alpha-tocopherol might be discussed in the light of different bioavailability, but also in a potential transformation from gamma- into alpha-tocopherol. From the metabolism end product, only that of gamma-tocopherol (2,7,8-trimethyl-2-(beta-carboxyethyl)-6-hydroxychroman), but not that of alpha-tocopherol, was identified to provide natriuretic activity. Studies also indicate that only the gamma-tocopherol plasma level served as biomarker for cancer and cardiovascular risk. Therefore, this paper provides a comprehensive review on gamma-tocopherol with emphasis on its chemistry, biosynthesis, occurrence in food, different intake linking to different plasma levels in USA and Europe, absorption and metabolism, biological activities, and possible role in human health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Biological Availability
  • Chromans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Nutritive Value
  • Propionates / metabolism
  • alpha-Tocopherol / metabolism
  • alpha-Tocopherol / pharmacokinetics
  • gamma-Tocopherol / blood
  • gamma-Tocopherol / metabolism*
  • gamma-Tocopherol / pharmacokinetics


  • Antioxidants
  • Chromans
  • Propionates
  • 2,7,8-trimethyl-2-(beta-carboxyethyl)-6-hydroxychroman
  • gamma-Tocopherol
  • alpha-Tocopherol