Vitamin E - What's the Difference?
This article stems from an error I made several months ago when I was formulating our lotion bars. I purchased what was labeled as "natural" vitamin E that was "pure enough to take orally." When I began looking at the label's fine print, though, I realized it was a synthetic vitamin E concoction that was produced using corn and soy oils. Yuck. I did a little bit more research and then purchased a new vitamin E oil -- pure, natural 100% vitamin E.
Human bodies need vitamins in order to maintain health, and most people don't get the proper amounts of them through their diets. Many of us turn to supplements to fill in the gaps. However, the form of vitamins you take may play an important role in how well your body absorbs them, and getting the right form might mean the difference between better health and wasted funds.
Are Synthetics Okay?
Some synthetic vitamins are easily flushed out by the body because of their water solubility. In fact, when you take some synthetic vitamins, you may notice that your urine turns a bright yellow color, particularly with Vitamin B12. That’s just the excess vitamins your body couldn’t use going down the drain. While the body is flushing out the excess, the kidneys are being taxed to remove that excess; and, some synthetic vitamins are made up of ingredients that have a low bio-availability, which means that your body is unable to utilize most of the nutrients. Therefore, most of your money is *ahem* flushed down the toilet.
Along with water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, and K can be chemically altered with synthetic ingredients in a laboratory, resulting in "pure" synthetic vitamins. And, because they are dissolved in fat instead of water, if you take more of these fat-soluble vitamins than your body can metabolize, they will be stored up within your fat cells, resulting in toxicity and creating even more health problems for you! Since some synthetic vitamins are made up of chemicals, including nicotine and coal tars, allergic reactions are also more likely.
Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin whose most important role is to act as an antioxidant (it reduces the damage caused by free radicals). Vitamin E also helps keep the immune system strong and aids the body in properly using vitamin K, helping maintain normal blood viscosity. Some good sources of vitamin E are wheat germ, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
The maximum allowable dose for vitamin E is 1000 IU/day for the synthetic form and 1500 IU/day for natural sources. So what’s the difference between the synthetic and natural vitamin E? Vitamin E exists in eight different forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherols and tocotrienols) each of which has slightly different activity in the body. Even though there are 8 forms of vitamin E, the most biologically active form of the vitamin is called alpha-tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol is considered the active form because it is the preferred form of vitamin E transported and used by the liver.
Synthetic vitamin E does not come from a natural food source and is generally derived from petroleum products. Labeled as dl-alpha-tocopherol or any variation starting with dl-, it is found in most singular vitamin E supplements. Most multivitamins contain a semi-synthetic vitamin E extracted from plant oils. It is GRAS to consume synthetic or semi-synthetic vitamin E, but you may not be getting as much of the vitamin into your system as you are intending. Synthetic vitamin E, due to its chemical structure, is only about 12% as potent as natural vitamin E. It is also not as bio-available (meaning easily used by the body) as its natural counterpart, decreasing overall absorption and utilization of the vitamin.
Synthetic vitamin E is also excreted faster than the natural form, so it doesn’t have as much time to get into the tissues where it is needed. Natural vitamin E is labeled d-alpha tocopherol, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate, or d-alpha tocopheryl succinate or sometimes appear as mixed tocopherols. Natural vitamin E comes from plant oils instead of petroleum and is better absorbed by the body. Specific transport proteins in the liver tend to bind better to natural vitamin E, allowing it to be transported to other tissues in the body.
At Joyful Mountain, we believe it’s important for us to research our ingredients so that you don't have to! Rest assured; we only purchase natural forms of vitamin E for use in our lotion bars and lip balms.