Vitamin E tocotrienols show immune boosting potential

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Immune system

Daily supplements rich in vitamin E tocotrienols may boost the immune response and immune function in healthy women following a vaccination.

According to findings published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, women who received daily supplements of a palm tocotrienol complex for one month prior to a single tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccine experienced improvements in their immune response, compared with women who received placebo prior to the vaccine.

The study used Carotech’s TocominSupraBio-branded ingredient and the study was supported financially by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board and the International Medical University in Kuala Lumpur.

The research was welcomed by Dr. Sharon Ling, VP of scientific affairs for Carotech Bhd. “This randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial opens up a new application of TocominSupraBio in supporting immune function in healthy individuals,” ​she said.

The vitamin E family

Tocotrienols are a form of vitamin E that have traditionally been in the shadow of the more popular vitamin E form – tocopherols.

Overall, there are eight forms of vitamin E: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). Alpha-tocopherol (alpha-Toc) is the main source found in supplements and in the European diet, while gamma-tocopherol (gamma-Toc) is the most common form in the American diet.

Tocotrienols (TCT) are only minor components in plants, although several sources with relatively high levels include palm oil, cereal grains and rice bran. The complex used in the current study was the Tocomin branded blend supplied by Carotech, which contains D-alpha-tocotrienol, D-gamma-tocotrienol, D-delta-tocotrienol, and D-alpha-tocopherol.

Study details

To test the effects of the tocotrienol-rich palm fraction on immune function, Malaysia-based scientists recruited 108 healthy non-smoking women aged between 18 and 25 years. The women were randomly split into two groups: One group received 400 milligrams of the palm tocotrienol complex per day, and the other group received placebo (400 mg per day of soy oil) for 2 months.

Blood samples were analysed at the start of the study, and again after 28 and 56 days. After 28 days of supplementation all of the participants received a single shot of tetanus toxoid vaccine.

Results showed significant increases in levels of the anti-TT antibody, interferon (IFN)-gamma and interleukin (IL)-4 in the tocotrienol group, compared with placebo.

“This study provides evidence that daily supplementation of 400mg tocotrienol rich fraction can have a beneficial role in enhancing the immune response of healthy subjects following an immunogenic challenge such as vaccination,”​ stated the researchers.

Furthermore, blood levels of tocotrienols increased, compared with placebo, with the greatest increases in alpha-T3, followed by gamma-T3, and delta-T3.

Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1038/ejcn.2010.184
“Effects of supplementation with tocotrienol-rich fraction on immune response to tetanus toxoid immunization in normal healthy volunteers”
Authors: D. Mahalingam, A.K. Radhakrishnan, Z. Amom, N. Ibrahim, K Nesaretnam

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