Are Tocotrienol Essential Vitamin E?
By Dr. Barrie Tan
Lately, interest in a vitamin E product called tocotrienol has been growing. Is it new? What about this sub-component has revitalized interest in this much studied nutrient as it relates to health?
That might be easier to answer by explaining what is known. Vitamin E is the body's naturally occurring lubricant or anti-clotting agent and a very powerful antioxidant that helps destroy harmful free radicals (toxins) in the body. Without adequate amounts of vitamin E, the risk of heart disease, cancer, and many other degenerative diseases increases drastically. Past focus on vitamin E has been its alpha-tocopherol form. Since it has been most studied, it is the best known of its eight isomers and has been found to have the highest bioavailability to the cells.
Vitamin E is the collective name for its set of the aforementioned eight related isomers: alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol; and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol; which are fat-soluble vitamins.
We have always known that tocotrienols are part of the vitamin E molecular chain; however, they are just now coming more to the forefront because recent studies that added tocotrienols to the supplement regimens of those who suffer with health issues ranging from diabetes, highcholesterol, arterial damage, heart health, cancer, and more have shown fantastic results.
A LITTLE SCIENCE
All forms of tocopherols and tocotrienols have antioxidant capabilities, but tocotrienols display up to 50 times greater antioxidant potential than tocopherols. And because of its shape, deltatocotrienol is usually more potent in delivering benefits.
Unfortunately, because tocotrienols are less available in foods and plants, the cost to gather adequate amounts for use as a dietary supplement can be prohibitive to many companies. To offset these costs, many companies offer products that "contain" tocotrienols mixed in with other less expensive substances, such as soy, palm, and rice bran oils to name a few. These products are generally called "full-spectrum E," because they "contain" all eight isomers from multiple sources.
Vitamin E is found in the oily or fatty areas of plants, which it needs and uses as a protectant. There are three major sources of tocotrienols: rice bran oil (25% tocopherols : 75% tocotrienols), palm oil (50% tocopherols : 50% tocotrienols), and Annatto (essentially tocopherol-free or contains only tocotrienols 100%). As mentioned before, many tocotrienol products are available now that include alpha-tocopherol.
However, what most companies don't tell you is alpha-tocopherol interferes with the function of tocotrienol. For example, researchers concluded that effective tocotrienol preparations should contain less than 15% of alpha-tocopherol and more than 60% of delta- and gammatocotrienols. Total absence of alpha-tocopherol in the tocotrienol product would be optimal and should be taken at a separate time.
THE DELTA-GAMMA POWERHOUSE
Delta- and gamma-tocotrienols have been proven to be the most potent, and when there is a difference between the two, delta-tocotrienols ranks higher on potency. Thus, with the absence of alpha-tocopherol in a tocotrienol product, you receive the maximum benefit offered by tocotrienols. Their high bio-availabilty have been shown in research on cholesterol, triglycerides, blood hypercoagulation, and cancer.
Just think "delta" and "gamma," especially those tocotrienols as found in UNIQUE E® Tocotrienol. This tocopherol-free tocotrienol from A.C. Grace Company delivers the highest concentrate at 125 mg per beef softgel. Also available is UNIQUE E® Mixed Tocopherols Concentrate - a pure form of high-gamma, high-alpha, beta- and deltatocopherols completely free of fillers of any kind.
TOCOTRIENOLS vs. TOCOPHEROLS?
A mix of both tocopherol forms of vitamin E (especially high gamma and alpha) and tocotrienols are beneficial to the human body. It is highly recommended to take a regimen of pure mixed tocopherols in the morning with your meal, and Annatto tocotrienol taken either at lunch or dinner with your meal. All vitamin E isomers are lipidsoluble supplements and are best taken with a meal, preferably dinner. Absorption is poor when these supplements are taken on an empty stomach.
THE TOCOTRIENOL "PRESCRIPTION"
For antioxidant protection and cardiovascular benefits, 20-25 mg/day and 100 mg/day, respectively, should be taken. For cellular protection or disease-specific focus, a higher potency of approximately 200 mg/day or more is suggested.