Tocopheryl Acetate: Does It Really Work?
What’s tocopheryl acetate?
Alpha-tocopheryl acetate (ATA) is a specific form of vitamin E that’s often found in skincare products and dietary supplements. It’s also known as tocopheryl acetate, tocopherol acetate, or vitamin E acetate.
Vitamin E is known for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help to protect your body from damaging compounds called free radicals. Normally, free radicals form when your body converts food into energy. However, free radicals can also come from UV light, cigarette smoke, and air pollution.
In nature, vitamin E comes in the form of tocopheryl or tocotrienol. Both tocopheryl and tocotrienol have four forms, known as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Alpha-tocopheryl (AT) is the most active form of vitamin E in humans.
ATA is more stable than AT, meaning it can better withstand environmental stresses such as heat, air, and light. This makes it ideal for use in supplements and fortified foods because it has a longer shelf life.
Where can I find tocopheryl acetate?
Cosmetics and supplements
You’ll find ATA in a variety of skincare products. The antioxidant properties of vitamin E can help to prevent damage to the skin caused by free radicals from UV exposure. Vitamin E may also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.
Due to its higher stability, ATA is also used in vitamin E dietary supplements. When taken orally, ATA is converted to AT within the intestine. Vitamin E is in most multi-vitamins, so be sure to check how much is in your multi-vitamin if you take one, before adding a supplement.
In addition to dietary supplements and cosmetic products, you can find vitamin E in the following foods:
- green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach
- oils, such as sunflower oil, wheat germ oil, and corn oil
- sunflower seeds
- nuts, such as almonds and peanuts
- whole grains
- fruits, such as kiwi and mango
Vitamin E is also added to fortified foods, such as cereals, fruit juices, and many spreads. You can check food labels to see if vitamin E has been added. If you want to increase your vitamin E intake, you should start by first increasing your intake of these foods.
Using AT on the skin, especially with vitamin C, helps to prevent UV damage to the skin. In a review of studies, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University found that using AT with vitamin C on the skin decreased sunburned cells, DNA damage, and skin pigmentation following UV exposure. However, AT is less stable in the environment than ATA, which makes it harder to store.
While ATA is less sensitive to heat and light than AT is, there’s less conversion of ATA to the active AT form within the skin. This is because the cells in the upper layer of your skin are much less metabolically active. As a result, using cosmetic products containing ATA on your skin may not be very effective.
This is supported by a study from 2011 published in the Medical Principles and Practice journal. Using several commercial skincare products, researchers looked at the conversion of ATA to the active AT form in the skin of live rats. They found that, while there was ATA in the upper levels of the skin after using the product, there was no active AT.
While there are many studies on the potential benefits of AT, studies on the benefits of ATA are limited. The results of these studies on ATA are mixed. ATA usually needs to be used with other vitamins and minerals to have a beneficial effect.
A 2013 study of over 4,000 participants with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that their combination of high dose antioxidants C, E, and beta-carotene, along with zinc, worked to delay progression to advanced AMD.
In another review of studies, the Linus Pauling Institute found that consuming ATA along with other antioxidant supplements had no effect on either the development or prevention of cataracts.
Regarding the benefits of vitamin E supplements overall, study results have been mixed on whether they’re beneficial for the following conditions:
- coronary heart disease
- cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease
Most people don’t experience side effects when taking the recommended daily dose of vitamin E, which is 15 milligrams (mg).
Too much Vitamin E can cause problems. The tolerable upper limit dose of vitamin E for adults is 1,000 mg. High doses above 1,000 mg have been associated with the following side effects:
- blurred vision
- abdominal pain
If you take high doses of vitamin E supplements for over a year, your risk of bleeding may increase. Speak to your doctor before taking vitamin E supplements if you take anticoagulant medication.
It’s unlikely that you’ll get too much vitamin E from foods, but it can happen if you’re also taking supplements. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also showed that men taking high doses of vitamin E supplements had a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
It’s important to remember that the FDA doesn’t monitor supplements for purity or quality, so choosing a reputable brand is essential. Using skincare products containing ATA can also lead to an allergic reaction, skin reddening, or rash.
The bottom line
ATA is a form of vitamin E that’s often included in cosmetic products and dietary supplements due to its higher stability compared to AT. When taken orally, ATA is converted into active AT within the body. The effectiveness of ATA in cosmetic products seems to be limited because ATA isn’t effectively broken down to AT in the upper layers of skin. Additionally, research on the benefits of ATA supplements is limited and the results are mixed at best.
If you’re looking to get more vitamin E, try adding foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, and wheat germ oil to your diet. Speak with your doctor before adding any supplements.
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