Vitamin E: protective role of a Janus molecule.

FASEB Journal : Official Publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Roberta RicciarelliAngelo Azzi


Since the discovery of vitamin E in 1922, its deficiency has been associated with various disorders, particularly atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, and the development of different types of cancer. A neurological syndrome associated with vitamin E deficiency resembling Friedreich ataxia has also been described. Whereas epidemiological studies have indicated the role of vitamin E in preventing the progression of atherosclerosis and cancer, intervention trials have produced contradictory results, indicating strong protection in some cases and no significant effect in others. Although it is commonly believed that phenolic compounds like vitamin E exert only a protective role against free radical damage, antioxidant molecules can exert other biological functions. For instance, the antioxidant activity of 17-beta-estradiol is not related to its role in determining secondary sexual characters, and the antioxidant capacity of all-trans-retinal is distinguished from its role in rhodopsin and vision. Thus, it is not unusual that alpha-tocopherol (the most active form of vitamin E) has properties independent of its antioxidant/radical scavenging ability. The Roman god Janus, shown in ancient coins as having two faces in one body, ...Continue Reading


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