The bioavailability of RRR-alpha-tocopherol from the oral administration of RRR-alpha-tocopherol itself and its acetate and succinate esters was determined in healthy human subjects. Venous blood samples were withdrawn periodically over a 51-h period following oral administration of a gelatin capsule containing an equimolar mixture of RRR-alpha-tocopherol and RRR-alpha-tocopheryl acetate. In a second study, subjects received a capsule containing an equimolar mixture of RRR-alpha-tocopheryl acetate and RRR-alpha-tocopheryl succinate. In Study 1, RRR-alpha-tocopherol was absorbed at similar rates from both the free phenol, and the acetate ester and maximum plasma levels occurred at 12 h in most subjects. The extent of absorption of RRR-alpha-tocopherol varied considerably between subjects in absolute terms, but the relative absorption from the two forms was remarkably consistent, and a ratio of 1.0 was found for parameters of relative bioavailability in plasma. The concentration of RRR-alpha-tocopherol from each form was maximal at approximately 27 h in red blood cells and, as seen with the plasma data, there was a large interindividual variability. In Study 2, there was no significant difference in the extent of absorption of RRR-alpha-tocopherol from the acetate ester and the succinate ester, although there was an apparently higher initial rate of absorption from the acetate ester.