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What is vitamin E acetate?

December 22, 2019


Health officials have spent months investigating
an outbreak of serious lung illnesses tied to e-cigarette use and vaping. They’ve zeroed
in on a substance called vitamin E acetate as a potential culprit. But what is vitamin
E acetate, and how does your body process it? Vitamin E is what it sounds like — it’s
a vitamin. But it’s pretty chemically unstable on its own. It’s more stable when something
called an acetate group gets added to it. Vitamin E acetate is often put in skin creams
and supplements. It’s generally seen as safe when it’s applied to the skin or when it’s
swallowed. When you ingest it, that acetate group gets
cut off by enzymes in your gastrointestinal system. The vitamin then gets trapped in these
tiny particles called mixed micelles. These are natural nanoparticles that are made by
bile acids that get secreted by your body. Those particles take the vitamin, ferry it
through the stomach’s mucus layer, and into epithelial cells.
The vitamin then gets repackaged again inside the epithelial cells, into a new kind of nanoparticle,
and it gets sent out into your bloodstream. But what happens if you inhale vitamin E acetate
because it’s been added to a vaping product? When you breathe it in, it doesn’t break down
the same way it does when you ingest it. Those enzymes aren’t there to cut off the acetate
group and send it on its way. And vitamin E acetate can hang around in the lungs for
a while, which experts think can interfere with lung function and cause serious health
issues.

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