Alpha-tocopherol, one of the eight isoforms of vitamin E, is the most potent fat-soluble antioxidant known in nature. For years, it was thought that alpha-tocopherol only functioned as a scavenger of lipid peroxyl radicals, specifically, oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL), thereby serving as a chief antioxidant for the prevention of atherosclerosis. In recent years, the many roles of alpha-tocopherol have been uncovered, and include not only antioxidant functions, but also pro-oxidant, cell signaling and gene regulatory functions. Decades of clinical and preclinical studies have broadened our understanding of the antioxidant vitamin E and its utility in a number of chronic, oxidative stress-induced pathologies. The results of these studies have shown promising, albeit mixed reviews on the efficacy of alpha-tocopherol in the prevention and treatment of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Future studies to uncover cellular and systemic mechanisms may help guide appropriate clinical treatment strategies using vitamin E across a diverse population of aging individuals.