New study points to bone health benefits of annatto-derived tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Fruit of an achiote tree, from which annatto seeds are obtained. © American River Nutrition
Fruit of an achiote tree, from which annatto seeds are obtained. © American River Nutrition

Related tags Bone health Osteoporosis

Supplementation with annatto-derived tocotrienol decreased bone resorption and improved bone turnover rate in postmenopausal women more than a placebo, according to a new study.

Conducted by researchers from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the Georgia State University, the study uncovers a new benefit with which vitamin E has not been traditionally associated—bone health.

“It is true that ‘vitamin E’ doesn’t jump to mind for bone health. This is likely because the most popularized vitamin E–alpha-tocopherol–was not shown to significantly contribute to bone health,”​ Dr. Barrie Tan, founder and president of American River Nutrition​, told NutraIngredients-USA.

His company provided funding as well as the intervention ingredient used in the study, an annatto extract containing 90% delta-tocotrienols and 10% gamma-tocotrienols marketed under the brand name DeltaGold.

The amount of scientific studies surrounding tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E, is minuscule compared to the more researched, more widely available form alpha-tocopherol, and Dr. Tan has spent decades of his career in promoting the benefits of tocotrienols through speaking engagements and industry media channels to a wide variety of stakeholders and health care professionals.

“While this clinical study is the first of its kind, research on tocotrienol’s bone health benefits has been well-document for the past approximately 10 years in animal studies,”​ Dr. Tan added.

Study design and results

The researchers recruited 89 postmenopausal women with a bone mineral density lower than normal—a condition known as osteopenia—for the randomized, double-blind and placebo controlled study published​ in Osteoporosis International.

They were randomly assigned to three groups: A placebo group with 430 mg olive oil/day, a low tocotrienol group with 430 mg of 70% pure tocotrienol/day, and a high tocotrienol group with 860 mg of 70% pure tocotrienol/day.

All oils were delivered in soft gel capsules to be taken daily over 12 weeks. The tocotrienol intervention capsule is registered with an FDA Investigational New Drug number.

Relative to the placebo group, tocotrienol supplementation decreased bone resorption and improved bone turnover rate six week in the study, as seen from biomarkers such as bone-specific alkaline phosphatase and osteoprotegerin.

“This study showed that supplementation of tocotrienols, mainly delta-tocotrienols, suppressed bone [bone remodeling regulators],”​ the researchers wrote in the report.

“Such osteoprotective tocotrienol’s effects may be, in part, mediated by an inhibition of oxidative stress,”​ they added.

Increasing awareness in the market place

“There are several dozen product formulations available in the US that contain DeltaGold, and none of them have been positioned as bone health supplements at this point,”​ Dr. Tan said, adding that the ingredient is mostly used for cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory-positioned supplements.

However, he argued that because some of these products are presented as antioxidants or to target inflammation–the two pathways that are likely involved in the mechanism for bone health benefit –they can easily be positioned as bone health supplements.

“Some great new combinations with DeltaGold to address bone health could include vitamin D, vitamin K2 and menaquinone, as these ingredients are already scientifically indicated to aid bone health,”​ he added.

“Communicating the bone health benefits of tocotrienol discovered through this first-of-a-kind clinical trial will be new to us. Tocotrienol does not act like vitamin D (a hormone) that supports calcium (a constituent mineral) in bone-building. Instead, tocotrienol, which happens to be a member of the vitamin E family, works directly with living bone cells (bone-building osteoblasts and  osteoclasts involved in the breakdown of bone) to create a balance that favors build-up of bone.”

Source: Osteoporosis International

Published online ahead of print, 2018 Jan 12. doi: 10.1007/s00198-017-4356-x

“Tocotrienol supplementation suppressed bone resorption and oxidative stress in postmenopausal osteopenic women: a 12-week randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled trial”

Authors: Shen, C.L., Yang, S., Tomison, M.D., Romero, A.W., Felton, C.K., Mo H.

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