Vitamin E tocotrienols shows bone health benefits: Rat data

By Stephen DANIELLS

- Last updated on GMT

The study used vitamin E tocotrienols derived from annatto - photo: Leonardo Ré-Jorge
The study used vitamin E tocotrienols derived from annatto - photo: Leonardo Ré-Jorge

Related tags: Bone, Osteoporosis

Vitamin E tocotrienols may boost bone health, with or without statins, suggests new data from a study with osteoporotic rats.

Tocotrienols from annatto – mainly composed of delta-tocotrienol – with or without statins stimulated bone formation and cut back bone decay in a postmenopausal osteoporosis rat model, according to findings published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine​.

While the combination of annatto tocotrienol with lovastatin was most potent, suggesting a synergistic or additive effect of the two, annatto tocotrienol also showed significant improvements, report researchers from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Lovastatin alone did not elicit a beneficial response, they added.

Writing in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine​, the researchers stated: “Supplementation of delta-tocotrienol in combination with oral statins at clinically acceptable doses has both bone antiosteoporotic and anabolic activity and was more effective than delta-tocotrienol and lovastatin given individually.

“Therefore, the combination of delta-tocotrienol plus lovastatin has the potential to be used as an anti-osteoporotic agent especially in patients who are at risk of both conditions, that is, osteoporosis and hypercholesterolemia. This is especially true for postmeanopausal women, and also for men of the older age group.”

Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a condition of decreasing bone density accompanied by high bone turn-over, and is due to estrogen deficiency that occurs with the arrival of menopause in women. Affecting 8 million women in the US, osteoporosis is responsible for 1.5 million fractures annually, with estimated national expenditures totaling $14 billion each year.

Biological hallmarks are reduced levels of bone-forming cells or osteoblasts resulting in low levels of osteocalcin and osteoids that normally make up the bone matrix, as well as increased levels of osteoclasts that are responsible for erosion of the bone surface.

The vitamin E family

Tocotrienols are forms 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 new study used American River Nutrition’s DeltaGold product – a naturally tocopherol-free mix containing ~90% delta- and 10% gamma-tocotrienol.

Study details

The Malaysia-based scientists tested the effects of annatto tocotrienol alone or in combination with lovastatin on osteoblast and osteoclast levels in a postmenopausal rat model. Using a clinically acceptable dose of statin equivalent to a human daily dose of 80mg, they found that statins alone were ineffective at this low dose. The daily vitamin E tocotrienol dose given to the rats was roughly equivalent to a human daily dose of 420mg.

Results showed that both the combo as well as tocotrienol alone increased osteoblasts, osteocalcin, and osteoid biosynthesis, all indicative of bone formation. In addition, the combo decreased breakdown of bone proteins and the extent of eroded bone surface, suggesting that bone decay was inhibited.

Highlighting the compelling synergistic characteristics of the two compounds, the researchers noted that delta-tocotrienol in combination with statins at clinically acceptable doses has both bone anti-osteoporotic and anabolic activity.

Commenting on the research, Dr. Barrie Tan, president of American River Nutrition Inc. said that it is of particular importance because recent studies in both animals and humans show that the most common form of vitamin E – alpha-tocopherol – may actually weaken bone. “Preventive use of tocotrienol supplements may be especially opportunistic for women with osteopenia, affecting 22 million in the US, to ward off further bone loss,”​ he said.

Source: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Doi: 10.1155/2012/960742
“Effects of tocotrienol and lovastatin combination on osteoblast and osteoclast activity in estrogen-deficient osteoporosis”
Authors: A. Abdul-Majeed, N. Mohamed, I.N. Soelaiman

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