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  • 2015

New evidence that Vitamin E protects DHA in the nervous system

Published on

10 April 2015

Research from Choi et al. of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has used lipodomics to demonstrate that alpha tocopherol protects key brain lyso-phospholipids from oxidation, notably those based on Docahexaenoic Acid (DHA) in a zebrafish model.

The team at the Linus Pauling performed lipidomic analysis on the brains of normal and specially bred Vitamin E deficient zebrafish (Danio rerio). The technique enabled the rapid scan of many hundreds of brain lipids. However the alpha tocopherol deficiency produced changes in a relatively small group, namely 4 DHA-containing phospholipids and 19 lyso-phospholipids. It is thought the latter group are in fact oxidation metabolites of the DHA phospholipids. Other major brain lipids, including ARA (arachidonic acid) were unaffected. DHA, is a key structural component of the membrane of neural cells and has a pivotal role in communication between cells. DHA is also the source of a wide series of protective anti-inflammatory and resolving metabolites. However the DHA molecule contains six double bonds, and hence of all the common brain lipids, it is the most likely to be subject to oxidation. The oxidized metabolites of DHA are not thought to have any useful function in the brain and may be deleterious.

The authors surmise that depleted alpha tocopherol concentrations in the body allow depletion of DHA containing lipids in the brain – and most likely elsewhere in the body.The experimental data from the study demonstrates that DHA is protected against oxidation by Vitamin E and provides further evidence why alpha tocopherol consumption is essential.


  1. Choi J et al., Novel function of vitamin E in regulation of zebrafish (Danio rerio) brain lysophospholipids discovered using lipidomics, J. Lipid Res. published 8 April 2015, 10.1194/jlr.M058941 (www.jlr.org)

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