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The Truth Behind Tocotrienols

| September 1, 2011

Vitamin E is one of the most Important phytonutrients in edible oils. It consists of eight naturally occurring isomers, a family of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) homologues.Tocotrienols are natural compounds found in select vegetable oils, wheat germ, barley, saw palmetto, and certain types of nuts and grains. This variant of vitamin E typically only occurs at very low levels in nature.

According to Barrie Tan, PhD, and developer of the first ever tocopherol free tocotrienol product derived from annatto beans, tocotrienols are by no means supposed to replace tocopherols.Discovered in 1922, tocopherols were a vital nutrient to protect against birth defects. Both tocopherols and tocotrienols are excellent antioxidants, said Tan, adding that tocotrienols, because they are made up of a slightly different and more mobile molecular structure, have benefits that go far beyond those of antioxidants.

There are several health benefits of tocotrienols, including: lowing blood pressure; reversing carotid atherosclerosis, or arterial blockage; suppressing cancer and tumors; working as a super antioxidant; and slowing aging and protecting skin.

Since tocotrienols only occur at very low levels in nature, with the highest concentration found in palm oil, it is virtually impossible to attain the amount of tocotrienols that show beneficial effects from the normal diet alone. For example, one would need to consume a cup of palm olein (cooking oil) a day to get the level required for effectiveness as described in most studies.

An Array of Benefits

Several studies have been done on the use of tocotrienol and its various benefits.one 2010 Study1 done at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Science Malaysia, looked to examine the impact of tocotrienols on hair growth.

Researchers gave 21 volunteers 100mg daily of a mixed tocotrienol supplement, while 17 volunteers were administered placebo capsules daily.The tocotrienol group had a 34 percent increase in number of hairs while the placebo group had a decrease of 0.1 percent in number of hairs.The authors stated, “In conclusion, this trial demonstrated that supplementation with tocotrienol capsules increases hair number in volunteers suffering from hair loss as compared to the placebo group. This observed effect was most likely to be due to the antioxidant activity that helped to reduce lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress in the scalp, which are reported to be associated with alopecia.”

More research2 was aimed to examine the effects of tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) on exercise endurance and oxidative stress in forced swimming rats. Rats fed on isocaloric diet were orally given 25 (TRF-25) and 50 (TRF-50) mg/kg of TRF, or 25mg/kg d-á- tocopherol (T-25) while the control group received only the vehicle for 28 days, followed by being forced to undergo swimming endurance tests, with measurements taken of various biochemical Parameters, including blood glucose, lactate and urea nitrogen, glycogen, total antioxidant capacity, antioxidant enzymes, thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) and protein carbonyl.

Results showed that the TRF-treated animals (268.0 ± 24.1 min for TRF-25 and 332.5 ± 24.3 min for TRF-50) swam significantly longer than the control (135. 5 ± 32.9 min) and T-25-treated (154. 1 ± 36.4 min) animals, whereas there was no difference in the performance between the T-25 and control groups. The TRF-treated rats also showed significantly higher concentrations of liver glycogen, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), as well as of muscle glycogen and SOD than the control and the T-25-treated animals, but lower levels in blood lactate, plasma and liver TBARS, and liver and muscle protein carbonyl. Taken together, these results suggest that TRF is able to improve the physiological condition and reduce the exercise- induced oxidative stress in forced swimming rats.

Stroke Damage Reduction

Research has also studied the potential ability of tocotrienol to reduce stroke damage. Ten weeks of preventive supplementation with tocotrienol in dogs that later had strokes reduced overall brain tissue damage, prevented loss of neural connections and helped sustain blood flow in the animals’ brains, a new study shows. In the study3, 24 hours after a stroke, lesions indicating brain tissue damage were about 80 percent smaller in dogs that received supplementation than were the lesions in dogs that received no intervention.Imaging tests showed that the treated animals’ brains had better blood flow at the stroke site as compared to untreated dogs’ brains, a difference attributed to tiny collateral blood vessels’ ability to improve circulation in the brain when blood flow stopped in more substantial vessels.

In the study, published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 20 dogs were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those receiving a placebo pill, and those receiving 200 milligrams of mixed tocotrienols. Though alpha-tocotrienol is the form of the vitamin known for its protection of brain cells, the supplement for this study contained a mix of tocotrienols to make it more accessible and affordable.

The dogs ate regular food and received two supplement Pills per day for 10 weeks. At this point, scientists induced stroke by blocking the middle cerebral artery in the animals’ brains for one hour while the animals were under anesthesia. The researchers used a variety of imaging techniques to examine the effects of the stroke on the two groups. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed the differences in the volume of tissue damaged by the stroke.One hour after the stroke, the lesions in the treated dogs’ brains were about 60 percent smaller than the size of the lesions in the untreated brains. Twenty four hours after the stroke, the lesions were 80 percent smaller in treated animals compared to untreated animals.

Images of the blood vessels in the animals’ brains showed different responses in the brain blood circulation based on whether or not they had received preventive treatment. The researchers used a scoring system to determine how much of the collateral circulatory system was activated in response to the blocked blood flow associated with the stroke.

The score in treated dogs was almost twice as high as that in untreated animals.

Additional examination of the affected brain tissue showed that the alpha tocotrienol supplementation appeared to support arteriogenesis, a process by which collateral arteries remodel themselves into larger vessels so they can bypass the site of blockage. Genes associated with this process were more active in the affected brain tissue from treated animals than were those from untreated dogs.

Resources:

• National Center for Biotechnology Information

• www.raysahelian.com

• www.tocotrienol.org

References:

1 Lim Ai Beoy, Wong Jia Woei and Yuen Kah Hay.“Effects of Tocotrienol Supplementation on Hair Growth in Human Volunteers.” Tropical Life Sciences Research, 21(2), 91-99, 2010.

2 Shu-Ping Lee, Guang-Yuan Mar and Lean-Teik Ng. “Effects of tocotrienol-rich fraction on exercise endurance capacity and oxidative stress in forced swimming rats.” European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2007; Vol. 107, Number 5, 587-595.

3 Cameron Rink, Greg Christoforidis, Savita Khanna, Laura Peterson, Yojan Patel, Suchin Khanna, Amir Abduljalil, Okan Irfanoglu, Raghu Machiraju, Valerie K Bergdall, Chandan K Sen. “Tocotrienol vitamin E protects against preclinical canine ischemic stroke by inducing arteriogenesis.” Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 2011; DOI:10. 1038/jcbfm.2011.85.

Vitamin E is one of the most Important phytonutrients in edible oils. It consists of eight naturally occurring isomers, a family of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) homologues.Tocotrienols are natural compounds found in select vegetable oils, wheat germ, barley, saw palmetto, and certain types of nuts and grains. This variant of vitamin E typically only occurs at very low levels in nature.

According to Barrie Tan, PhD, and developer of the first ever tocopherol free tocotrienol product derived from annatto beans, tocotrienols are by no means supposed to replace tocopherols.Discovered in 1922, tocopherols were a vital nutrient to protect against birth defects. Both tocopherols and tocotrienols are excellent antioxidants, said Tan, adding that tocotrienols, because they are made up of a slightly different and more mobile molecular structure, have benefits that go far beyond those of antioxidants.

There are several health benefits of tocotrienols, including: lowing blood pressure; reversing carotid atherosclerosis, or arterial blockage; suppressing cancer and tumors; working as a super antioxidant; and slowing aging and protecting skin.

Since tocotrienols only occur at very low levels in nature, with the highest concentration found in palm oil, it is virtually impossible to attain the amount of tocotrienols that show beneficial effects from the normal diet alone. For example, one would need to consume a cup of palm olein (cooking oil) a day to get the level required for effectiveness as described in most studies.

An Array of Benefits

Several studies have been done on the use of tocotrienol and its various benefits.one 2010 Study1 done at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Science Malaysia, looked to examine the impact of tocotrienols on hair growth.

Researchers gave 21 volunteers 100mg daily of a mixed tocotrienol supplement, while 17 volunteers were administered placebo capsules daily.The tocotrienol group had a 34 percent increase in number of hairs while the placebo group had a decrease of 0.1 percent in number of hairs.The authors stated, “In conclusion, this trial demonstrated that supplementation with tocotrienol capsules increases hair number in volunteers suffering from hair loss as compared to the placebo group. This observed effect was most likely to be due to the antioxidant activity that helped to reduce lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress in the scalp, which are reported to be associated with alopecia.”

More research2 was aimed to examine the effects of tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) on exercise endurance and oxidative stress in forced swimming rats. Rats fed on isocaloric diet were orally given 25 (TRF-25) and 50 (TRF-50) mg/kg of TRF, or 25mg/kg d-á- tocopherol (T-25) while the control group received only the vehicle for 28 days, followed by being forced to undergo swimming endurance tests, with measurements taken of various biochemical Parameters, including blood glucose, lactate and urea nitrogen, glycogen, total antioxidant capacity, antioxidant enzymes, thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) and protein carbonyl.

Results showed that the TRF-treated animals (268.0 ± 24.1 min for TRF-25 and 332.5 ± 24.3 min for TRF-50) swam significantly longer than the control (135. 5 ± 32.9 min) and T-25-treated (154. 1 ± 36.4 min) animals, whereas there was no difference in the performance between the T-25 and control groups. The TRF-treated rats also showed significantly higher concentrations of liver glycogen, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), as well as of muscle glycogen and SOD than the control and the T-25-treated animals, but lower levels in blood lactate, plasma and liver TBARS, and liver and muscle protein carbonyl. Taken together, these results suggest that TRF is able to improve the physiological condition and reduce the exercise- induced oxidative stress in forced swimming rats.

Stroke Damage Reduction

Research has also studied the potential ability of tocotrienol to reduce stroke damage. Ten weeks of preventive supplementation with tocotrienol in dogs that later had strokes reduced overall brain tissue damage, prevented loss of neural connections and helped sustain blood flow in the animals’ brains, a new study shows. In the study3, 24 hours after a stroke, lesions indicating brain tissue damage were about 80 percent smaller in dogs that received supplementation than were the lesions in dogs that received no intervention.Imaging tests showed that the treated animals’ brains had better blood flow at the stroke site as compared to untreated dogs’ brains, a difference attributed to tiny collateral blood vessels’ ability to improve circulation in the brain when blood flow stopped in more substantial vessels.

In the study, published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 20 dogs were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those receiving a placebo pill, and those receiving 200 milligrams of mixed tocotrienols. Though alpha-tocotrienol is the form of the vitamin known for its protection of brain cells, the supplement for this study contained a mix of tocotrienols to make it more accessible and affordable.

The dogs ate regular food and received two supplement Pills per day for 10 weeks. At this point, scientists induced stroke by blocking the middle cerebral artery in the animals’ brains for one hour while the animals were under anesthesia. The researchers used a variety of imaging techniques to examine the effects of the stroke on the two groups. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed the differences in the volume of tissue damaged by the stroke.One hour after the stroke, the lesions in the treated dogs’ brains were about 60 percent smaller than the size of the lesions in the untreated brains. Twenty four hours after the stroke, the lesions were 80 percent smaller in treated animals compared to untreated animals.

Images of the blood vessels in the animals’ brains showed different responses in the brain blood circulation based on whether or not they had received preventive treatment. The researchers used a scoring system to determine how much of the collateral circulatory system was activated in response to the blocked blood flow associated with the stroke.

The score in treated dogs was almost twice as high as that in untreated animals.

Additional examination of the affected brain tissue showed that the alpha tocotrienol supplementation appeared to support arteriogenesis, a process by which collateral arteries remodel themselves into larger vessels so they can bypass the site of blockage. Genes associated with this process were more active in the affected brain tissue from treated animals than were those from untreated dogs.

Resources:

• National Center for Biotechnology Information

• www.raysahelian.com

• www.tocotrienol.org

References:

1 Lim Ai Beoy, Wong Jia Woei and Yuen Kah Hay.“Effects of Tocotrienol Supplementation on Hair Growth in Human Volunteers.” Tropical Life Sciences Research, 21(2), 91-99, 2010.

2 Shu-Ping Lee, Guang-Yuan Mar and Lean-Teik Ng. “Effects of tocotrienol-rich fraction on exercise endurance capacity and oxidative stress in forced swimming rats.” European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2007; Vol. 107, Number 5, 587-595.

3 Cameron Rink, Greg Christoforidis, Savita Khanna, Laura Peterson, Yojan Patel, Suchin Khanna, Amir Abduljalil, Okan Irfanoglu, Raghu Machiraju, Valerie K Bergdall, Chandan K Sen. “Tocotrienol vitamin E protects against preclinical canine ischemic stroke by inducing arteriogenesis.” Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 2011; DOI:10. 1038/jcbfm.2011.85.

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