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Gamma tocopherol

April 2006

Gamma-tocopherol—an underestimated vitamin?

The main research activities of the last decades on tocopherols were mainly focused on alpha-tocopherol, in particular when considering the biological activities. However, recent studies have increased the knowledge on gamma-tocopherol, which is the major form of vitamin E in the diet in the USA, but not in Europe. gamma-Tocopherol provides different antioxidant activities in food and in-vitro studies and showed higher activity in trapping lipophilic electrophiles and reactive nitrogen and oxygen species. The lower plasma levels of gamma- compared to alpha-tocopherol might be discussed in the light of different bioavailability, but also in a potential transformation from gammainto alpha-tocopherol. From the metabolism end product, only that of gamma-tocopherol (2,7,8-trimethyl- 2-(beta-carboxyethyl)-6- hydroxychroman), but not that of alpha-tocopherol, was identified to provide natriuretic activity. Studies also indicate that only the gammatocopherol plasma level served as biomarker for cancer and cardiovascular risk. Therefore, this paper provides a comprehensive review on gamma-tocopherol with emphasis on its chemistry, biosynthesis, occurrence in food, different intake linking to different plasma levels in USA and Europe, absorption and metabolism, biological activities, and possible role in human health.

Ann Nutr Metab. 2004;48(3):169-88

Tocopherols and the treatment of colon cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Vitamin E (VE) and other antioxidants may help prevent colon cancer by decreasing the formation of mutagens arising from the free radical oxidation of fecal lipids or by “non-antioxidant” mechanisms. VE is not a single molecule, but refers to at least eight different molecules, that is, four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Methods: Both animal models and human colon cancer cell lines were used to evaluate the chemopreventive potential of different forms of VE. Rats were fed diets deficient in tocopherols or supplemented with either alpha-tocopherol or gammatocopherol. Half the rats in each of these groups received normal levels of dietary Fe and the other half Fe at eight times the normal level. In our cell experiments, we looked at the role of gamma-tocopherol in upregulating peroxisome proliferator- activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma) in the SW 480 human cell line. Results: Rats fed the diets supplemented with alphatocopherol had higher levels of VE in feces, colonocytes, plasma, and liver than did rats fed diets supplemented with gamma-tocopherol. Dietary Fe levels did not influence tocopherol levels in plasma, liver, or feces. For colonocytes, high dietary Fe decreased tocopherol levels. Rats fed the gamma-tocopherol-supplemented diets had lower levels of fecal lipid hydroperoxides than rats fed the alpha-tocopherol-supplemented diets. Ras-p21 levels were significantly lower in rats fed the gamma-tocopherol-supplemented diets compared with rats fed the alpha-tocopherol-supplemented diets. High levels of dietary Fe were found to promote oxidative stress in feces and colonocytes. Our data with the SW480 cells suggest that both alpha- and gamma-tocopherol upregulate PPAR-gamma mRNA and protein expression. gamma-tocopherol was, however, found to be a better enhancer of PPAR-gamma expression than alpha-tocopherol at the concentrations tested.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1031:223-33

Serum alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol in relation to prostate cancer risk in a prospective study.

The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta- Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study demonstrated a 32% reduction in prostate cancer incidence in response to daily alpha-tocopherol supplementation. We examined baseline serum concentrations of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol to compare their respective associations with prostate cancer risk. From the ATBC Study cohort of 29 133 Finnish men, 50- 69 years old, we randomly selected 100 incident prostate cancer case patients and matched 200 control subjects. Odds ratios and 95% confi- dence intervals (CIs) were estimated for the serum tocopherols (measured by high-performance liquid chromatography) using logistic regression models. All P values were two-sided. Odds ratios for the highest versus the lowest tertiles were 0.49 (95% CI = 0.24 to 1.01, P(trend) = .05) for alpha-tocopherol and 0.57 (95% CI = 0.31 to 1.06, P(trend) = .08) for gamma-tocopherol. Further analyses indicated that the association of high serum tocopherols with low prostate cancer risk was stronger in the alpha-tocopherolsupplemented group than in those not receiving alpha-tocopherol. Participants with higher circulating concentrations of the major vitamin E fractions, alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol, had similarly lower prostate cancer risk.

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005 Mar 2;97(5):396-9

Relation of the tocopherol forms to incident Alzheimer disease and to cognitive change.

BACKGROUND: High intake of vitamin E from food (tocopherol), but not from supplements (which usually contain alpha-tocopherol), is inversely associated with Alzheimer disease. OBJECTIVE: We examined whether food intakes of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol equivalents (a measure of the relative biologic activity of tocopherols and tocotrienols), or individual tocopherols would protect against incident Alzheimer disease and cognitive decline over 6 y in participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project. DESIGN: The 1993-2002 study of community residents aged >or=65 y included the administration of 4 cognitive tests and clinical evaluations for Alzheimer disease. Dietary assessment was by food-frequency questionnaire. RESULTS: Tocopherol intake from food was related to the 4-y incidence of Alzheimer disease determined by logistic regression in 1041 participants who were clinically evaluated (n=162 incident cases) and to change in a global cognitive score determined by mixed models in 3718 participants. Higher intakes of vitamin E (relative risk: 0.74 per 5 mg/d increase; 95% CI: 0.62, 0.88) and alpha-tocopherol equivalents (relative risk: 0.56 per 5 mg/d increase; 95% CI: 0.32, 0.98) were associated with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer disease in separate multiple-adjusted models that included intakes of saturated and trans fats and docosahexaenoic acid. alpha- and gamma-Tocopherol had independent associations. In separate mixed models, a slower rate of cognitive decline was associated with intakes of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol equivalents, and alpha- and gamma-tocopherols. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that various tocopherol forms rather than alpha- tocopherol alone may be important in the vitamin E protective association with Alzheimer disease.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):508-14

Dietary vitamin E modulates differential gene expression in the rat hippocampus: potential implications for its neuroprotective properties.

A wide range of cell culture, animal and human epidemiological studies are suggestive of a role of vitamin E (VE) in brain function and in the prevention of neurodegeneration. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. In the current investigation Affymetrix gene chip technology was utilised to establish the impact of chronic VE deficiency on hippocampal genes expression. Male albino rats were fed either a VE deficient or standard diet (60 mg/kg feed) for a period of 9 months. Rats were sacrificed, the hippocampus removed and genes expression established in individual animals. VE deficiency showed to have a strong impact on genes expression in the hippocampus. An important number of genes found to be regulated by VE was associated with hormones and hormone metabolism, nerve growth factor, apoptosis, dopaminergic neurotransmission, and clearance of amyloid-beta and advanced glycated endproducts. In particular, VE strongly affected the expression of an array of genes encoding for proteins directly or indirectly involved in the clearance of amyloid beta, changes which are consistent with a protective effect of VE on Alzheimer’s disease progression.

Nutr Neurosci. 2005 Feb;8(1):21-9

Personal exposure to ultrafine particles and oxidative DNA damage.

Exposure to ultrafine particles (UFPs) from vehicle exhaust has been related to risk of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease and cancer, even though exposure assessment is difficult. We studied personal exposure in terms of number concentrations of UFPs in the breathing zone, using portable instruments in six 18-hr periods in 15 healthy nonsmoking subjects. Exposure contrasts of outdoor pollution were achieved by bicycling in traffic for 5 days and in the laboratory for 1 day. Oxidative DNA damage was assessed as strand breaks and oxidized purines in mononuclear cells isolated from venous blood the morning after exposure measurement. Cumulated outdoor and cumulated indoor exposures to UFPs each were independent significant predictors of the level of purine oxidation in DNA but not of strand breaks. Ambient air concentrations of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of < or = 10 microm (PM10), nitrous oxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and/or number concentration of UFPs at urban background or busy street monitoring stations was not a significant predictor of DNA damage, although personal UFP exposure was correlated with urban background concentrations of CO and NO2, particularly during bicycling in traffic. The results indicate that biologic effects of UFPs occur at modest exposure, such as that occurring in traffic, which supports the relationship of UFPs and the adverse health effects of air pollution.

Environ Health Perspect. 200 Nov;113(11):1485-90

Alpha-tocopherol: roles in prevention and therapy of human disease.

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.

Biomed Pharmacother. 2005 Aug;59(7):380-7

Vitamin E in neurodegenerative disorders: Alzheimer’s disease.

Oxidative stress is important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The brain contains high levels of oxidizable lipids that must be protected by antioxidants. Low concentrations of vitamin E, quantitatively the major lipophilic antioxidant in the brain, are frequently observed in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of AD patients, suggesting that supplementation with vitamin E might delay the development of AD. In a placebo-controlled trial, vitamin E (2000 IU/day, 2 years) slowed (-53%) functional deterioration in patients with moderate AD. Recently, use of vitamin E and vitamin C supplements in combination was found to be associated with reduced prevalence (-78%) and incidence (-64%) of AD in elderly population. These results are consistent with the ability of the supplementation with vitamin E (400 IU/day, 1 month) to increase its levels in CSF (123%) and plasma (145%) of AD patients and, in combination with vitamin C (1000 g/ day), to decrease the susceptibility of CSF lipoproteins (up to -32%) to in vitro oxidation. In addition, vitamin E reduced lipid peroxidation and amyloid deposition in a transgenic mice model of AD. Computer modeling of the influence of vitamin E on lipoprotein oxidation reveals that the vitamin develops antioxidative activity in CSF lipoproteins in the presence of physiologically relevant, low amounts of oxidants. By contrast, under similar conditions, vitamin E behaves as a pro-oxidant in plasma lipoproteins, consistent with the model of tocopherol-mediated peroxidation. This distinction is related to major differences in the levels of vitamin E (50 nM vs. 30 microM) and oxidizable lipids (4 microM vs. 2.5 mM) between CSF and plasma, which result in major differences in oxidative conditions (per unit of vitamin E) between CSF and plasma in the presence of similar amounts of oxidants. Altogether, these data suggest that vitamin E may be effective against in vivo oxidation of CSF lipoproteins and brain lipids, and offer new perspectives in the treatment of AD and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1031:249-62

New perspectives on vitamin E: gamma-tocopherol and carboxyelthylhydroxychroman metabolites in biology and medicine.

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol or alphaT) has long been recognized as a classic free radical scavenging antioxidant whose deficiency impairs mammalian fertility. In actuality, alpha-tocopherol is one member of a class of phytochemicals that are distinguished by varying methylation of a chroman head group. Early studies conducted between 1922 and 1950 indicated that alpha-tocopherol was specific among the tocopherols in allowing fertility of laboratory animals. The unique vitamin action of alphaT, combined with its prevalence in the human body and the similar efficiency of tocopherols as chainbreaking antioxidants, led biologists to almost completely discount the “minor” tocopherols as topics for basic and clinical research. Recent discoveries have forced a serious reconsideration of this conventional wisdom. New and unexpected biological activities have been reported for the desmethyl tocopherols, such as gamma-tocopherol, and for specific tocopherol metabolites, most notably the carboxyethyl-hydroxychroman (CEHC) products. The activities of these other tocopherols do not map directly to their chemical antioxidant behavior but rather reflect anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic, and natriuretic functions possibly mediated through specific binding interactions. Moreover, a nascent body of epidemiological data suggests that gamma-tocopherol is a better negative risk factor for certain types of cancer and myocardial infarction than is a alphatocopherol. The potential public health implications are immense, given the extreme popularity of alphaT supplementation which can unintentionally deplete the body of gamma-tocopherol. These findings may or may not signal a major paradigm shift in free radical biology and medicine. The data argue for thorough experimental and epidemiological reappraisal of desmethyl tocopherols, especially within the contexts of cardiovascular disease and cancer biology.

Free Radic Biol Med. 2004 Jan 1;36(1):1-15.

Relationship between dementia and nutrition-related factors and disorders: an overview.

This review gives a brief overview of the main types of dementia and summarizes current thinking on the relationship between nutritionalrelated factors and disorders, and dementia. Dementia is a multi-factor pathological condition, and nutrition is one factor that may play a role on its onset and progression. An optimal intake of nutrients doesn’t protect people from dementia. However, studies in this area show that inadequate dietary habits, which are of particular concern in elderly populations, may increase the risk of developing a number of age-related diseases, including disorders of impaired cognitive function. They show that a deficiency in essential nutrients, such as certain B complex vitamins, can result in hyperhomocysteinemia, a well-known risk factor for atherosclerosis and recently associated with cognitive impairment in old age. A deficiency of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene, as well as nutrition-related disorders like hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and diabetes, may also have some role in cognitive impairment. These factors can be present for a long time before cognitive impairment becomes evident, therefore they could be potentially detected and corrected in a timely manner.

Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2005 Mar;75(2):83-95