{alpha}-Tocopherol disappearance is faster in cigarette smokers and is inversely related to their ascorbic acid status

Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):95-103. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.1.95.


Background: Cigarette smokers have enhanced oxidative stress from cigarette smoke exposure and from their increased inflammatory responses.

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine whether cigarette smoking increases plasma alpha-tocopherol disappearance in otherwise healthy humans.

Design: Smokers and nonsmokers (n = 10/group) were supplemented with deuterium-labeled alpha-tocopheryl acetates (75 mg each of d(3)-RRR-alpha-tocopheryl acetate and d(6)-all-rac-alpha-tocopherols acetate) for 6 evenings (days -6 to -1). Plasma alpha-tocopherols, ascorbic acid, uric acid, and F(2alpha)-isoprostanes were measured in blood samples collected on days -6 through 17. The urinary alpha-tocopherol metabolite, alpha-carboxy-ethyl-hydroxy-chroman (alpha-CEHC), was measured on days -6, 0, and 17 in 24-h urine samples.

Results: F(2alpha)-isoprostanes were, on average, approximately 40% higher in smokers than in nonsmokers. On day 0, plasma labeled and unlabeled alpha-tocopherol concentrations were not significantly different between groups. Smoking resulted in faster fractional disappearance of plasma alpha-tocopherol (0.215 +/- 0.011 compared with 0.191 +/- 0.009 pools/d; P < 0.05). Fractional disappearance rates of alpha-tocopherol correlated with plasma ascorbic acid concentrations in smokers (P = 0.021) but not in nonsmokers despite plasma ascorbic acid concentrations that were not significantly different between groups. By day 17, cigarette smoking resulted in lower plasma alpha-tocopherol concentrations and urinary excretion of labeled and unlabeled alpha-CEHC (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Cigarette smoking increased alpha-tocopherol disappearance. Greater rates of alpha-tocopherol disappearance in smokers appear to be related to increased oxidative stress accompanied by lower plasma ascorbic acid concentrations. Thus, smokers have an increased requirement for both alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Ascorbic Acid / blood*
  • Chromans / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoprostanes / blood
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Propionates / urine
  • Smoking*
  • alpha-Tocopherol / blood*
  • alpha-Tocopherol / urine


  • Antioxidants
  • Chromans
  • Isoprostanes
  • Propionates
  • 2,5,7,8-tetramethyl-2-(2'-carboxyethyl)-6-hydroxychroman
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Ascorbic Acid