What is the Difference Between Tocotrienols and Tocopherols

The main difference between tocotrienols and tocopherols is that tocotrienols have unsaturated isoprenoid side chains, whereas tocopherols have saturated isoprenoid side chains.

Vitamin E is a well-known group of fat-soluble antioxidants that plays a crucial role in protecting cells from oxidative damage. Tocotrienols and tocopherols are two compounds that belong to the vitamin E family.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Tocotrienol
     – Definition, Features
2. What is Tocopherol
     – Definition, Features
3. Similarities Between Tocotrienols and Tocopherols
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Tocotrienols and Tocopherols
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Tocotrienols, Tocopherols

Difference Between Tocotrienols and Tocopherols - Comparison Summary

What is Tocotrienol

Tocotrienols are a group of chemical compounds belonging to the vitamin E family. Tocotrienols are fat-soluble antioxidants that play a crucial role in maintaining human health. They offer potential health benefits across various aspects. They act as antioxidants, safeguarding cells from oxidative stress and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. These compounds also hold promise in supporting heart health by managing cholesterol levels and promoting healthy blood vessels. Emerging research suggests their neuroprotective properties, making them valuable in brain health studies, including Alzheimer’s disease research. Additionally, tocotrienols show promise in cancer prevention, potentially inhibiting cancer cell growth. In skin care, they are used for anti-aging, skin hydration, and UV protection.

When considering their structure, tocotrienols consist of a chromanol ring and a long hydrophobic side chain. Their side chains are shorter and possess unsaturated double bonds. Due to this structure, tocotrienols are generally considered to have lower bioavailability than tocopherols.

What is Tocopherol

Tocopherols, structurally intricate and chemically diverse, belong to the vitamin E family. Tocopherols, like tocotrienols, share a common structural foundation characterized by a chromanol ring and a lengthy hydrophobic side chain. However, it is the unique composition of tocopherols that distinguishes them. In contrast to tocotrienols, tocopherols feature saturated side chains that contribute to their distinct chemical properties.

Tocopherols come in several forms, including alpha (α), beta (β), gamma (γ), and delta (δ). These different forms are distinguished by the number and placement of methyl groups on their chemical structures. Among them, alpha-tocopherols is considered the most potent.

Compare Tocotrienols vs. Tocopherols

One of the primary functions of tocopherol is its powerful antioxidant activity. It helps protect cells and tissues from oxidative damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can harm DNA, proteins, and lipids. Tocopherols exert a modulatory influence on the immune system. By supporting immune cell function and minimizing inflammation, tocopherols contribute to the body’s defense mechanisms. These effects are particularly relevant in the context of aging, where immune function tends to decline, making tocopherols valuable allies in maintaining immune vitality and resilience.

Tocopherols also play a pivotal role in cardiovascular health. Research has shown that vitamin E, particularly gamma-tocopherol, has the ability to lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol while promoting the dilation of blood vessels. These actions collectively contribute to reduced cardiovascular risk, making tocopherols a crucial component of heart-protective strategies.

Tocotrienols and Tocopherols

  • Both tocotrienols and tocopherols are potent antioxidants, which means they have the ability to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body.
  • They are both fat-soluble vitamins, meaning they are absorbed and transported in the body with the help of dietary fats.
  • They are stored in fatty tissues and the liver.
  • Both compounds share a common chromanol ring structure, which is responsible for their antioxidant activity.

Difference Between Tocotrienols and Tocopherols


Tocotrienols are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds in the vitamin E family, characterized by their unsaturated side chains. At the same time, tocopherols are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds in the vitamin E family characterized by their saturated side chains.

Chemical Structure

Tocotrienols have a chemical structure that includes a chromanol ring, a hydrophobic side chain, and unsaturated double bonds in their side chain. Tocopherols also have a chromanol ring and a hydrophobic side chain, but their side chains consist of saturated bonds.


Tocopherols, especially alpha-tocopherol, are more abundant in common dietary sources.


Tocotrienols are believed to have better bioavailability and cellular uptake than tocopherols due to their unsaturated side chains.


In brief, tocotrienols and tocopherols are two compounds that belong to the vitamin E family. The main difference between tocotrienols and tocopherols lies in their side chain structure, with tocotrienols having shorter, unsaturated side chains while tocopherols have longer, saturated side chains. This structural difference also gives these compounds different properties.


1. “Tocotrienol – An Overview.” Science Direct. 
2. “Tocopherol – An Overview.” Science Direct. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Tocopherol, alpha-” By Calvero – Own work (made with ChemDraw) (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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