The Health Benefits of Tocopheryl Acetate

For Slowing the Progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Tocopheryl acetate is a specific type of vitamin E, in a class of organic chemical compounds known as tocopherols. These compounds are considered fat-soluble antioxidants, but are also said to have many other functions in the body. Tocopheryl acetate is “A natural tocopherol and one of the most potent antioxidant tocopherols,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s publication, “PubChem.” The antioxidants in vitamin E are known to protect the cell from damage that naturally occurs from free radicals. These free radicals are formed in the body during normal processes (such as energy production). Other free radicals come from various sources, like radiation from X-rays, air pollution, smoking, and industrial chemicals. So, vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate) goes to work acting as an antioxidant to protect the cells and DNA, promoting cellular health. Because vitamin E is fat-soluble, this means that it can stop the production of free radicals formed when the body breaks down fat for energy.

Note, there are eight different types of natural vitamin E; alpha tocopherol is the most abundant type in human tissue. It is the only variation of vitamin E used to treat vitamin E deficiencies.

Tocopheryl acetate is commonly used to formulate dietary supplements as well as skin care products.

Tocopheryl acetate (Alpha-tocopheryl acetate) is also known as:

  • Alpha tocopheryl acetate (ATA)
  • Vitamin E acetate
  • Tocopherol acetate
  • Alfacol
  • A-tocopherol
  • Alpha tocopherol
  • D-alpha tocopherol

Health Benefits 

There are many benefits that are claimed to be offered by tocopheryl acetate, these include:

  • Treating vitamin E deficiency
  • Promoting healthy skin (such as moisturizing and preventing wrinkles)
  • Helping with wound healing
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cancer prevention and cancer treatment symptoms (such as side effects of radiation therapy)
  • Treating heart disease
  • Improving cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease

But what does the research say?

Many of the research studies performed on tocopheryl acetate and skin health involve what is called in-vitro studies. This means that the studies were performed in cell cultures, outside of the body. But according to Oregon State University’s Micronutrient Information Center, “These models do not recreate the complex structure of skin tissues. Therefore, in vivo [performed inside of a living organism] studies are needed.”

While there are some promising study results regarding the benefits of tocopheryl acetate, much of the research on the success of tocopheryl acetate supplementation is mixed. For example, the data on the effectiveness of vitamin E for the treatment of heart disease, cancer and cognitive problems (such as in Alzheimer’s disease) is mixed.

Wound Healing

Studies on humans involving the effect of tocopheryl acetate on wound healing have shown that there are no beneficial effects. In fact, tocopheryl acetate was not found to improve or worsen the appearance of scar tissue.

Improvement in Wrinkles

A study examining the diet of Japanese women revealed that there was no link between consuming vitamin E and skin wrinkling. The study data supporting vitamin E and oils containing tocopherols and their moisturizing properties is limited. Cross-sectional studies (studies involving a specific population to evaluate data such as age, ethnicities, geographical location and social backgrounds) discovered that there was no link between skin hydration and vitamin E consumption in men or women.

However, there were two small studies showing a possible association between the skin’s ability to retain moisture and topical (applied directly to the skin) vitamin E. “Long-term studies with topical vitamin E are needed to establish if these moisturizing effects can be sustained,” explains Oregon State University.

Skin Cancer

There have been many human studies that concluded there was no benefit from the use of tocopheryl acetate in treatment of skin cancer.

The clinical research data results are mixed when it comes to the use of tocopheryl acetate in the treatment of side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
These therapies are said to work by creating free radicals that kill the cancer cells, so it stands to reason that a very strong antioxidant—such as tocopheryl acetate—could reverse the damaging side effects of these cancer therapies.

According to the Memorial Slone Kettering Cancer Center, “So what protects healthy cells may protect cancer cells as well. This question is still not fully understood and patients who are interested in taking more than the RDA [recommended daily allowance] of any antioxidant should consult with their doctor.”

Cancer

Many studies have examined the potential of vitamin E to prevent cancer. But, several very large human research studies with tocopheryl acetate failed to reveal any cancer-preventive effects.

Reducing Inflammation

A human randomized controlled study supported the successful treatment of an inflammatory skin disorder called atopic dermatitis (eczema), using vitamin D and vitamin E.

Slowing the Progression of AMD

A 2017 review study looked at the initial results of the very large study (involving approximately 4,000 study participants) called the “Age-Related Eye Disease Study (ARED),” The ARED study discovered that participants with advanced age-related macular degeneration, who took supplements combined with very high doses of vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene, along with zinc, realized a slowing down of the progression of AMD.

Antioxidant Effects

According to Oregon State University’s Micronutrient Information Center, “Although not well studied, topical applications of vitamin E may reduce pollution-related free radical damage.”

Possible Side Effects

Although tocopheryrl acetate is thought to be relatively safe, there are some potential risks, particularly if the recommended dosage is exceeded. In fact, taking too much vitamin E could lead to toxicity.

According to the Memorial Slone Kettering Cancer Center, symptoms of vitamin E toxicity from long-term use of more than 400 to 800 Internationa Units (IU) per day may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Rash
  • Thrombophlebitis (an inflammation of the vein due to a blood clot)

Vitamin E supplements may also increase the risk of having a stroke. The reason tocopheryl acetate may increase the risk of a stroke is due to its anti-blood-clotting side effects.

A 2011 study revealed that in male study subjects, taking very high doses of vitamin E supplements, there was an increased risk of prostate cancer.

If a person takes a high dose of vitamin E for more than 12 months, it could increase the risk of bleeding. It’s important to consult with a health care provider before taking vitamin E supplements—particularly for those who are taking anticoagulants such as Coumadin (warfarin).

Skin care products with tocopheryl acetate may cause a local skin reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction of the skin include reddening or a rash in the area that the cream or ointment was applied.

Contraindications

A contraindication is a situation in which a specific medication, treatment or procedure should not be used because it could be harmful. Often two drugs or supplements should not be taken together and/or a drug/supplement should not be used when a person has a specific condition because it could worsen it.

Contraindications for tocopheryl acetate include:

  • Coumadin (warfarin), or other blood thinners such as aspirin or heparin: High doses of vitamin E (over 400 IU per day) should not be taken with these medications because it may increase the risk of bleeding.
  • A heart condition: A study involving the effects of vitamin E in combination with other supplements (such as selenium, beta carotene and Vitamin C) found that this combination supplement reduced the beneficial effects of other heart protective drugs (such as statins and niacin) in lowering blood cholesterol levels. 
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy: Taking antioxidants during chemotherapy or radiation therapy could impact the benefits of these cancer treatment modalities.

If you are taking any type of prescription or over the counter medication, natural or dietary supplement, or have a medical condition, it’s vital to discuss taking tocopheryl acetate with your health care provider.

Dosage and Preparation

Preparation

Tocopheryl acetate is available as an oral supplement or a topical solution. It can be found in various commercial preparations including capsules, lotions, moisturizing skin creams and oils, anti-aging products, and more. Most of the commercial preparations of vitamin E are available in dosages, sold as international units (IU), but you may also see listings for milligrams (mg).

Dosage

The amount of vitamin E required each day, depends on a person’s age and other factors, such as the condition being treated. The National Institutes of Health lists average recommended daily amounts.

Recommended Daily Amounts

Birth to 6 months: 4 mg (6 IU)
Infants 7-12 months: 5 mg (7.5 IU)
Children 1-3 years: 6 mg (9 IU)
Children 4-8 years: 7 mg (10.4 IU)
Children 9-13 years: 11 mg (16.4 IU)
Teens 14-18 years: 15 mg (22.4 IU)
Adults: 15 mg (22.4 IU)
Pregnant teens and women: 15 mg (22.4 IU)
Breastfeeding teens and women: 19 mg (28.4 IU)

Note, Toxicity could occur with long-term use of vitamin E supplements at dosages over 800 IU and taking over 400 IU daily.

Long-term daily use of vitamin E over 400 IU could increase the risk of all-cause mortality (the death rate from all causes of death for a population in a specific time span).

What to Look For

Although vitamin E supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), vitamins are considered a dietary supplement. Therefore, they are not as strictly regulated as prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. Supplements, such as vitamin E could be mislabeled or even contaminated; vitamin supplements may not be tested for safety or effectiveness.

A recent survey of several commercial brands of vitamin E “found their actual content to vary considerably from the labeled dosage, from 41% less than the labeled amount, to 57% more,” according to Memorial Slone Kettering Cancer Center.

Purchasing a product that is organic, and one that has been evaluated/certified by a third-party institution such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.com, is highly recommended. These are institutions that specialize in reporting on a product’s level of safety, purity, and potency.

Other Questions

Which foods are high in vitamin E?
Food sources high in vitamin E include plant oils such as wheat germ, sunflower, safflower oil, and to a lesser extent corn and soybean oils. Other foods high in vitamin E include:

  • Wheat germ
  • Eggs
  • Broccoli and green leafy vegetables such as spinach (provides some vitamin E)
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Fortified breakfast cereal (and other foods fortified with vitamin E, check labels to be sure)

Is it possible to overdose on vitamin E from food sources?

Overdosing on vitamin E from food sources is very unlikely, but it could occur, particularly involving those taking tocopheryl acetate supplements. Very high doses of supplements (particularly when taken long-term) including tocopheryl acetate, are not recommended.

How do I know if I have a vitamin E deficiency?

It’s rare that people in good health have a vitamin E deficiency.
Usually, it is associated with specific conditions in which fats are improperly digested (such as cystic fibrosis or Crohn’s disease). This is because vitamin E requires fats for proper absorption.

What are the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency?

The symptoms of vitamin E deficiency may include:

  • Loss of sensation in the limbs (arms and legs)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of body control
  • Problems with vision
  • Nerve damage
  • Muscle damage
  • Weakened immune system

A Word from Verywell

While there is insufficient clinical research data to back the many claims of health benefits (as well as the safety) of tocopheryl acetate, this does not mean that vitamin E supplements and topical creams and lotions are not beneficial. It simply indicates that more research is needed to definitively prove the safety and efficacy of these products. This is why it's vital to consult with a professional health care provider before taking vitamin E (or any other natural or herbal supplement).

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Article Sources

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  2. Oregon State University. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Vitamin E and Skin Health. Updated 2019. 

  3. Hobson R. Vitamin E and wound healing: an evidence-based review. Int Wound J. 2016;13(3):331-5. doi:10.1111/iwj.12295

  4. Boelsma E, van de Vijver LP, Goldbohm RA, Klopping-Ketelaars IA, Hendriks HF, Roza L. Human skin condition and its associations with nutrient concentrations in serum and diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(2):348-355. doi:10.1093/ajcn/77.2.348

  5. van der Pols JC, Heinen MM, Hughes MC, Ibiebele TI, Marks GC, Green AC. Serum antioxidants and skin cancer risk: an 8-year community-based follow-up study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18(4):1167-1173. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-1211

  6. Memorial Slone Kettering Cancer Center. Vitamin E. Updated February 6, 2016.

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