By Frank Tabino | Category: Antioxidants, NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS, VITAMINS
Vitamin E is a naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamin that came to the scientific forefront as a potent antioxidant. The body has other antioxidant compounds, but vitamin E has some particular functions that are essential to health. Vitamin E has become a very popular nutritional supplement, and most vitamin E supplements consist mainly of vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherol.
Scientists have found that as good an antioxidant alpha-tocopherol is, it is by no means the sharpest tool in the shed. Recent studies have shown combining alpha-tocopherol with a mixture of tocotrienols offers far more protection from severe degenerative disease. So what is a tocotrienol and how does it work in synergy with vitamin E to provide maximum health benefits? Let’s start from the beginning.
The History of Vitamin E
Researchers discovered vitamin E in 1922; they named it “Food Factor X,” a compound necessary for reproduction in laboratory animals. Two years later, it became known as Vitamin E. It was 1938 when researchers determined the chemical structure of Vitamin E, and they synthesized the first Vitamins E supplement in the laboratory as dl-alpha -tocopherol. Since then our knowledge of Vitamin E has increased dramatically.
Prior to 1990, scientists believed that vitamin E was a single compound. It has only been in the last twenty years that we have learned that vitamin E is not a single vitamin, but it is an entire family of nutrients.
This vitamin E family consists of eight forms of vitamin E that have been identified as existing in nature. Within the vitamin E family, there are two main sub-families; there is a tocopherol sub-family, consisting of alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherols, and there is the tocotrienol sub-family, again consisting of alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocotrienols. The scientific focus of vitamin E research has changed from looking at “vitamin E” to researching specific tocopherols or tocotrienols.
The spotlight on Tocotrienols
Scientists have found that tocotrienols in many cases are becoming the more important sub-family of vitamin E. Early research of vitamin E has centered around its potential as an antioxidant. There have been many studies showing vitamin E protects against cardiovascular disease by preventing oxidation to cholesterol. However, recent research has shown the antioxidant properties of the tocotrienol sub-family is superior to its relative tocopherol sub-family.
In further research, scientists revealed that the cardiovascular protection comes from the tocotrienols because of the ability to reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation and its proven ability to reduce atherosclerosis. Subsequent research has suggested tocotrienols may have an anti-clotting, and anti-tumor property, making them candidates for treatment of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Researchers now believe tocotrienols to be a superior antioxidant, and they become even stronger antioxidants when combined with a mixture of the tocopherol sub-family of vitamin E.
Tocotrienols Reduce Major Risk Factors of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a disease of the cardiovascular system in which arteries become clogged by plaque deposit causing a reduction blood flow. If left unchecked, atherosclerosis leads to heart attack and stroke, two major causes of death in the western world. Atherosclerosis is a degenerative disease and is characterized by the accumulation and oxidation of lipids (fats) within the artery.
Symptoms associated are high blood pressure and weak pulse, and depending upon the arteries involved and the degree of obstruction, symptoms may include angina, leg cramps and gradual mental deterioration weakness or dizziness. Recent scientific research shows that three commonly cited risk factors for atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol; oxidized LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and abnormal platelet aggregation can be modified with supplements containing mixed tocotrienols.
Numerous studies have indicated that oxidized LDL cholesterol is an important factor in the progression of atherosclerosis. Reducing LDL levels helps slow the progression of the disease, but the real culprit is oxidized LDL cholesterol. For many years, researcher confirmed the alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E could reduce your risk for heart disease, but it had no effect on cholesterol levels. With our present knowledge of vitamin E, scientists have demonstrated significant cholesterol lowering effects when combined with mixed tocotrienols.
In clinical trials, three of four patients with high cholesterol responded to the cholesterol-lowering effects of tocotrienols. Researchers found the most significant cholesterol lowering occurred when dietary components were added. Patients who added more fiber, and reduced the amount of fat in their diet saw the most significant reduction in cholesterol levels. In a recent 12-week double-blind study, patients who responded to tocotrienol supplements saw an average reduction of nearly 25% in total cholesterol level; more importantly, these patients recorded 35% lower LDL cholesterol. Researchers noted that the 35% lower LDL cholesterol required the additional dietary modifications. The patients who did not modify their diets and took only the tocotrienol supplements showed a 16% decrease in total cholesterol and a 21% decrease in LDL cholesterol levels.
Tocotrienols – Higher Antioxidant Activity than Tocopherols
Vitamin E, d-Alpha-Tocopherol, the form found in most supplements, has been shown to protect LDL from oxidation. In a study of more than 1000 people, Vitamin E reduced the risk of non-fatal heart attacks by 77%. This protective effect is attributed primarily to its antioxidant properties. Recent laboratory studies show tocotrienols to have between 40-60 times higher antioxidant activity against lipid oxidation than tocopherols.
Tocotrienols Natural Circulation Boosters
Research has shown that abnormal coagulation of blood platelets is a factor in the progression of atherosclerosis. For many years, doctors have recommended aspirin to reduce their patient’s risk of heart attack and stroke. However, there are many people, I for one, who believe that there is a downside to taking aspirin on a regular basis. Aspirin can cause intestinal bleeding, which can be fatal. Researchers are now questioning if aspirin even reduces the incident of heart attack and stroke. Tocotrienols, on the other hand, use the same mechanism as aspirin to aid circulation, but has none of the adverse side effects associated with aspirin.
Tocotrienols and Cancer
Numerous studies have shown a significant relationship between tocotrienols and cancer. Researchers have demonstrated tocotrienols ability to significantly inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Tocotrienols seem to specialize in treating cancer and in lowering cholesterol. There is still much research to be done in this area, since not all tocotrienols have the same effects, but a combination of mixed tocotrienols seems to give the greatest protection.
Do We Get Sufficient Tocotrienols From Our Diet
What does this mean for the average individual who wants to protect him- or herself from the common ailments of our time-heart disease and cancer? Eating food rich in vitamin E is one solution. Tocotrienols and tocopherols can both be found in the same foods, like wheat germ, bran, leafy green vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils particularly sesame seed oil. Unfortunately, the average American diet does not even include the minimum recommended servings of these foods.
That’s why tocopherol/tocotrienol supplementation is necessary. Indeed all of us could benefit by taking a supplement of 400IU of vitamin E daily, in the form of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols so that we benefit from each one’s abilities. Most Vitamin E supplements that you will find in your local health food store contain only the alpha-tocopherol vitamin E.
The vitamin E supplement I recommend is the cutting-edge nutritional supplement E-Toco 400. It is a complex of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols for optimum health benefits. For fat-soluble tocopherols and tocotrienols to be absorbed, they should be taken with a meal that contains oils or fats. This is especially important for absorption of tocotrienols. Research indicates an increase in absorption of more than 60% when tocotrienols are taken with fat-containing foods.
The Evolution of Vitamin E Continues
In the 90 years since its discovery, we have learned much about Vitamin E through the extensive research surrounding this vital nutrient. The recent discovery of tocotrienols and their amazing health promoting and protective properties will give rise to additional studies. The important thing to remember is that the full complement of tocopherols and tocotrienols as found in nature in Vitamin E-rich foods provides the most health benefits. In the coming years, our knowledge of the health promoting properties of Vitamin E and its naturally associated compounds, will continue to increase. From its discovery as “food factor x” to the recent development of tocotrienols, the evolution of this remarkable nutrient continues.