I outlined the benefits and history of supplementing with Vitamin E in another article, and now I would like to introduce you to Vitamin E’s cousin.
I’m sure you have all heard Vitamin E referred to as alpha tocopherol? Actually it is made up of 8 tocopherols, named after the first 8 letters of the Greek alphabet, and the new cousins are called Tocotrienols, of which 4 major ones have been isolated, called alpha, beta, gamma & delta – also after letters of the Greek alphabet.
The most common sources of tocopherols are corn, soy and olive oils, and the Tocotrienols are found predominantly in rice, barley and palm oils. Incidentally, the “tri” is pronounced as in tricycle.
Much of the research on Tocotrienols has focused on their antioxidant abilities in their capacity as cholesterol lowerers.
In one double blind cross-over study, serum concentrations of cholesterol decreased by an astonishing 31% in some of the study subjects in the short period of four weeks. Many of the major medications used to control cholesterol work by suppressing the liver’s ability to manufacture the substance, and therefore some of their most serious side-effects are connected with damage to the liver.
It appears that the pathway by which Tocotrienols control cholesterol has to do with suppressing an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, and therefore they also suppress the liver’s cholesterol manufacturing rate, but fortunately without any of the accompanying side effects.
In line with its ability to minimize a risk factor for heart disease, there is also some work that shows Tocotrienols decrease the possibility of stroke by having an effect on thromboxane levels in the blood: a lowering in humans of from 20 to 26% was demonstrated, and also a decrease in platelet aggregation.
Many experts suggest using the Tocotrienols to clear the existing cholesterol accumulation, then adding other nutrients, such as Red Yeast Rice or Policosanols, to prevent further build-up.
Other studies have suggested a protective effect against atherosclerosis by virtue of Tocotrienols’ antioxidant properties: damage from free radicals in the walls of the arteries is the end stage of the disease. A study at the Kenneth L. Jordan Heart Fund in 1993 showed that Tocotrienols significantly decreased plasma cholesterol, LDLs and VLDLs – all the baddies, in fact.
One reason they may be so effective is that, like alpha lipoic acid , Tocotrienols have the capability to penetrate lipid membranes which means they can operate effectively in organs with fatty layers like the brain and the liver. In fact, some research being done on the role of Tocotrienols in liver and breast cancer suggests a highly protective role for it, even to the extent of limiting the damage where a chemical agent was introduced in test animals to bring about a cancer. Part of a molecule’s antioxidant function is to prevent damage to DNA, and protect against cellular damage.
Some anti-tumor effect has been shown in Tocotrienols, they appear to slow the growth of breast cancer (VitRet Mar 99 32-33) in laboratory and animal tests, an effect attributed to their ability to regulate cell growth. Another study showed possible benefits for the treatment of liver cancer.
Sid Shastri CCN, of Jarrow Formulas, has kindly allowed me to quote the following information from him:
” Unlike other sources of tocotrienol, Toco-Life offers the highest levels of alpha and delta-tocotrienols while providing the same level of gamma-tocotrienol – a true full spectrum tocotrienol complex in comparison with other tocotrienols currently available in the market.
Studies suggest that different fractions of tocotrienols combine to provide different types of health benefits. For example, gamma tocotrienol is the most potent effector of HMG coA catabolism (thus resulting in the reduction of cholesterol synthesis). Palm-based Toco-Life has identical concentration of gamma in comparison to rice tocotrienol.
Delta-tocotrienol has only one methyl group attached to the chromanol ring is the most potent tocotrienol, as shown by various studies, for inhibition of aberrant cell growth. Also, the delta fraction is the most potent inhibitor of adhesion molecule expression and monocytic cell adherence. Toco-Life has the highest concentration of delta tocotrienol. “
Both tocopherols and Tocotrienols have important roles to play in protecting our health, and those of us who are taking one might also be considering the benefits of adding the other: it is obvious they both play a significant part in disease prevention.
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