There is no doubt that tocotrienols benefit human health. Research indicates that tocotrienols are unique and novel in their actions, which help to maintain normal cholesterol levels, promote healthy cellular growth and provide antioxidant effects and support innate neuroprotective properties.
Tocotrienols - Action
Beyond cancer, tocotrienols have been shown to have therapeutic effects in reducing important risk factors for some of the most deadly chronic diseases. For example, tocotrienols have been found to stimulate new vessel formation after stroke, lower homocysteine levels, improve insulin sensitivity, protect important brain circuits and even prevent bone mass loss. In addition, tocotrienols have potent lipid-lowering properties and anti-cancer effects.
For many years, research on vitamin E produced inconsistent results regarding its effects on cancer. It is now thought that this inconsistency is probably due to the widespread use of alpha-tocopherol alone in such studies. It is now known that alpha-tocopherol has a weak anti-cancer effect and that tocotrienols are more potent anti-cancer agents.
Tocotrienols are the ultimate multidirectional nutrient when it comes to cancer. Their action affects virtually every step in the development of cancer. They share antioxidant activity with tocopherol, but there appears to be a significant amount of anti-cancer activity unrelated to antioxidant activity.
Tocotrienols - occurrence
Tocotrienols occur naturally mainly in palm oil. Alternative sources also include rice, barley, wheat germ, oats, sabal palm extract, and some nut varieties. Of all grains, the highest levels of vitamin E are found in germinated wheat and the oil pressed from its germ. The second most abundant source is sunflower seeds and the oil pressed from them. In addition, vitamin E and therefore Tocotrienols can be found in almonds, plants such as spinach, lettuce and broccoli. And also in carrots, parsley, legumes. And in fruits such as avocados, apricots, peaches, raspberries, plums, strawberries, currants. Animal products are also not devoid of vitamin E, which can be found in dairy products, butter, meat, fish, but the amount of this vitamin in such foods is small. It is important to note that heat treatment of the above-mentioned products destroys vitamin E.
Tocotrienols are present in food supplements and can be taken when the body's need for this component is increased.
Tocotrienols - properties
Tocotrienols have therapeutic properties in cardiovascular disease and stroke. In addition, they offer a number of important additional benefits to tocopherol in the form of vitamin E, such as:
Improvement of lipid profiles
Tocotrienols reduce plasma cholesterol levels by blocking HMG-CoA reductase. This enzyme is the rate-limiting step in cholesterol production, so blocking it is an effective means of lowering cholesterol levels. In fact, common statin drugs used to lower lipid levels also work by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, although they do so by a different mechanism. Human studies show that supplementation with Tocotrienol can reduce total serum lipids by 23%, total cholesterol by 30% and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 42%.
Not all human studies show such significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and cholesterol. Animal studies show a significant reduction in lipids with the added benefit of reducing lipid oxidation. Tocotrienols can also lower dangerous forms of apolipoproteins, which are lipid-bearing proteins that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Tocotrienols have also been found to reduce blood levels of homocysteine, another important contributor to cardiovascular disease. When researchers used the tocotrienol-rich fraction in a rat study to reduce plasma oxidative stress and cardiac oxidative stress, they found that it proved more potent than folate, the standard homocysteine-reducing vitamin. In rabbits, supplementation with Tocotrienols after a high fat diet significantly reduced markers of both inflammation and myocardial damage.
Protection against ischaemia
If a vessel becomes blocked Tocotrienols provide strong resistance to the loss of blood flow known as ischaemia, which is generally involved in the development of heart attack or stroke. This was strongly demonstrated in a rabbit study in which supplementation not only lowered lipids, but also protected heart muscle from damage caused by laboratory-induced ischaemia. This was particularly true for alpha and gamma-tocotrienol, which significantly reduced the area of myocardial damage.
Prevention of stroke-related brain damage
Acute ischaemic stroke (reduced blood supply to an area of the brain) remains a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Oral tocotrienols have been shown to protect and prevent stroke-related brain damage in animal models. This protection is the result of several independent mechanisms. Tocotrienols act by:
- Slowing the conversion of arachidonic acid (the brain's most abundant fatty acid) into pro-inflammatory molecules, thereby reducing the inflammation that occurs after an acute stroke.
- Reducing the effects of oxidant damage-inducing molecules in brain tissue.
- Increasing arterial recruitment to rapidly restore blood flow to areas injured by stroke.
Improving metabolic syndrome
In an exciting glimpse into the future in human studies, preclinical studies have shown that tocotrienols can reverse many changes in metabolic syndrome, including improving lipid profiles, reducing atherosclerotic lesions, lowering blood glucose levels and mark glycation, and normalising blood pressure. At a functional level, tocotrienols improve myocardial function, improve glucose and insulin tolerance, and reduce inflammatory cell penetration into the myocardium.