Effect of fatty acids and tocopherols on the oxidative stability of vegetable oils

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236 Citations (Scopus)


The oxidative stability of vegetable oils is determined by their fatty acid composition and antioxidants, mainly tocopherols but also other non-saponifiable constituents. The effect of fatty acids on stability depends mainly on their degree of unsaturation and, to a lesser degree, on the position of the unsaturated functions within the triacylglycerol molecule. Vegetable oils contain tocopherols and tocotrienols, especially α- and γ-tocopherols, as their main antioxidants. The antioxidant behavior of tocopherols represents a complex phenomenon as they are efficient antioxidants at low concentrations but they gradually lose efficacy as their concentrations in the vegetable oils increase. The "loss of efficacy" of tocopherols, sometimes referred to as a "pro-oxidant effect", is witnessed by an increase in the rate of oxidation during the induction period, despite elongation of this phase. The phenomenon is much obvious for α-tocopherol, but is also evident for other tocopherols. In agreement with nature's wisdom, the tocopherol levels in vegetable oils seem to be close to the optimal levels needed for the stabilization of these oils. The presence of other antioxidants in the oils, e.g. carotenoids, phenolic compounds, and Maillard reaction products, may synergize with tocopherols and minimize this loss of efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1061
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Lipid Science and Technology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Fatty acids
  • Oxidative stability
  • Tocopherols
  • Vegetable oils

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • General Chemistry
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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