Effects of dietary RRR α-tocopherol vs all-racemic α-tocopherol on health outcomes

Katherine M. Ranard, John W. Erdman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Of the 8 vitamin E analogues, RRR α-tocopherol likely has the greatest effect on health outcomes. Two sources of α-tocopherol, naturally sourced RRR α-tocopherol and synthetic all-racemic α-tocopherol, are commonly consumed from foods and dietary supplements in the United States. A 2016 US Food and Drug Administration ruling substantially changed the RRR to all-racemic α-tocopherol ratio of biopotency from 1.36:1 to 2:1 for food-labeling purposes, but the correct ratio is still under debate in the literature. Few studies have directly compared the 2 α-tocopherol sources, and existing studies do not compare the efficacy of either source for preventing or treating disease in humans. To help close this gap, this review evaluates studies that investigated the effects of either RRR α-tocopherol or all-racemic α-tocopherol on health outcomes, and compares the overall findings. α-Tocopherol has been used to prevent and/or treat cancer and diseases of the central nervous system, the immune system, and the cardiovascular system, so these diseases are the focus of the review. No firm conclusions about the relative effects of the α-tocopherol sources on health outcomes can be made. Changes to α-tocopherol-relevant policies have proceeded without adequate scientific support. Additional research is needed to assemble the pieces of the α-tocopherol puzzle and to determine the RRR to all-racemic α-tocopherol ratio of biopotency for health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-153
Number of pages13
JournalNutrition reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • All-racemic α-tocopherol
  • Health
  • RRR α-tocopherol
  • Vitamin E

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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