9.23 Dietary Vitamin E & Amounts Found in Body

The best food sources of vitamin E are primarily oils and nuts. As you can see below, the forms of vitamin E that nuts and oils contain varies, with the two major forms being alpha and gamma-tocopherol1. Soybean, corn, and flaxseed oils are good sources of gamma-tocopherol. Palm and canola oils contain almost equal amounts of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol. Safflower oil, almonds, sunflower oil, and wheat germ oil are good sources of alpha-tocopherol. Beta-tocopherol and delta-tocopherol are found in lower levels in foods. Tocotrienols, for the most part, are not found in high levels in the diet. The amount of tocopherols in different nuts and oils are shown in the figure below.

Figure 9.231 Tocopherol distribution in plant products

Three-fourths of the oil Americans consume is soybean oil. As a result, it is estimated that we consume 2-4 times more gamma-tocopherol than alpha-tocopherol. Europeans consume more olive, sunflower, and canola oil and thus are believed to consume at least 2 times more alpha-tocopherol than gamma-tocopherol.

Despite Americans’ higher intake of gamma tocopherol compared to other countries, our serum concentrations do not differ much as illustrated in the table below.

Table 9.231 International serum gamma-tocopherol and alpha-tocopherol concentrations (uM/L)

Location Gamma-tocopherol Alpha-tocopherol
USA 1* 2-7 15-20
USA 2 5.4 22.3
USA 3 2.5 21.8
Costa Rica 2.7 28.6-31.8
France 1.05-1.28 26.7
Ireland 1.74-1.87 26.3
The Netherlands 2.3 23.9-25.5
Spain 0.88-1.14 27.4-28.3
Italy 1.29 24.3
Sweden 3.2 23.8
Lithuania 1.64 21.7
Austria 1.48 21.1

There are 3 different studies that have reported serum levels in the United States.

Tissue concentrations, for the most part, also indicate a greater accumulation of alpha-tocopherol than gamma-tocopherol as shown in the table below.

Table 9.232 Tissue gamma-tocopherol and alpha-tocopherol concentrations (nM/g)

Tissue Gamma-tocopherol Alpha-tocopherol
Skin 180 127
Adipose 176 440
Muscle 107 155


1. Wagner KH, Kamal-Eldin A, Elmadfa I. (2004) Gamma-tocopherol–an underestimated vitamin? Ann Nutr Metab 48(3): 169-188.