The vitamin E group includes tocopherols and tocotrienols and their isomers, esters, and derivatives. They differ not only in biopotencies as antisterility agents but also in activities in other physiological and chemical relationships. Unlike vitamins A and D, foods (vegetable oils) are among the richest sources of vitamin E, and assay methods for vitamin E include food applications more often than for the former vitamins. Physicochemical methods are replacing bioassays for vitamin E and tocopherol wherever possible because of greater specificity and less variability, time, and, sometimes, expense. Unless careful purifications and isolations are carried out and some of the relative vitamin E activities of components are calculated, bioassays are still required for total vitamin E activity. The vitamin E group is separated by column, paper, thin-layer, gas-liquid, and high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Gas-liquid chromatography has been more successfully used for vitamin E than for other fat-soluble vitamins. Recently developed HPLC methods for vitamin E are sensitive and apparently require less cleanup of extracts and less time than former methods; HPLC may prove to be the most useful technique for vitamin E in foods, especially if other fat-soluble vitamins can be determined simultaneously on the same sample extract.
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