Study supports vitamin E tocotrienol uptake in tissues

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Tocotrienol Tocopherol

Study supports vitamin E tocotrienol uptake in tissues
Oral supplementation with a blend of tocotrienols does produce marked increases in vitamin E levels in key tissues and organs, according to a new study.

Findings published in the Journal of Nutrition​ are said to be the first to show the availability of tocotrienols in a range of tissues and organs, including whole blood, fat tissue, skin, brain, heart muscle, and the liver.

“That tocotrienol was delivered and accumulated in vital human organs supports future studies to identify specific mechanisms of tissue delivery and metabolism,”​ wrote researchers, led by Prof. Chandan Sen from the Ohio State University Medical Center.

The study used Carotech’s Tocomin SupraBio and the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.

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 are only minor components in plants, although several sources with relatively high levels include palm oil, annatto, cereal grains and rice bran.


The study’s findings were welcomed by WH Leong, Vice President of Carotech Inc. “It is very exciting to learn from this human study that oral supplementation of bioenhanced palm tocotrienol complex – Tocomin SupraBio, improves accumulation of tocotrienols in the blood, skin, adipose, brain, heart and liver.

“This human study also proved that tocotrienols are absorbed and accumulated in vital human organs even in the presence of tocopherol, thereby unequivocally dispelling claims that tocopherol prevents the absorption of tocotrienols,”​ he said.

Study details

Prof Sen and his co-workers recruited 80 people to participate in their clinical study. Healthy individuals and surgical patients were included in the study. The healthy people were assigned to receive 400 milligrams of the tocotrienol complex for 12 weeks, and skin biopsies and blood samples were taken before and after supplementation.

The surgical patients included people with heart failure, liver transplant recipients, obese people undergoing reconstructive plastic surgery, and epileptics. They were randomly assigned to receive either 400 milligrams of tocotrienols or an equal dose of tocopherols.

Results showed significant increases in the skin and blood of the healthy subjects. Tocotrienol levels in fat tissue also increased about 10-fold, compared to controls, while levels of alpha, gamma, and delta-tocotrienol in the brain, heart and liver also significantly increased.

For the liver patients, a greater number of subjects in the tocotrienol group exhibited reductions (improvements) in their Model for End Stage Liver Disease (MELD) scores, compared with the tocopherol group.

“In the current work, oral tocotrienol supplementation increased alpha-tocotrienol in every vital organ tested, including brain,”​ wrote the researchers.

“Importantly, the observed alpha-tocotrienol concentration circulating in blood is 20-fold higher than that needed to afford neuroprotection. Indeed, alpha-tocotrienol has demonstrated potent neuroprotective effects at the concentration detected in human brain tissue following oral supplementation.

“This work is the first to demonstrate that oral tocotrienol supplementation increases tissue levels beyond therapeutic levels suggesting that dietary tocotrienol may play an important role in human health,”​ they added.

Source: The Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/​jn.111.151902
“Oral Tocotrienols are Transported to Human Tissues and Delay the Progression of the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease Score in Patients”
Authors: V. Patel, C. Rink, G.M. Gordillo, S. Khanna, U. Gnyawali, et al.

Related topics Research Vitamins & premixes

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