Tocotrienols are the recent addition to the vitamin E family that was originally composed of tocopherols. These newly discovered nutritional agents are found to be highly beneficial in terms of maintaining good health, especially in reducing cholesterol level.
Being an antioxidant is the primary role of vitamin E in the body. Vitamin E comes in two forms, namely, tocopherols and tocotrienols. Moreover, each form has four isoforms named after the Greek alphabet, such as alpha-, beta-, delta- and gamma-. Vitamin E has several benefits like maintaining cellular health, good skin condition, life-span extension and reducing free radical damage. It also minimizes stroke-related injuries, cancer, fertility problems, diabetes, atherosclerosis, platelet aggregation, high blood pressure, aging, scarring and even oxygen loss. Because cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, vitamin E and its cholesterol, triglyceride and plaque reduction properties are good alternatives to control it.
Research shows greater potential in vitamin E’s natural analogue tocotrienols on its antioxidation, cholesterol reducer, immune support and anticancer properties because of its chemical structure. It is more unsaturated than tocopherols that can effectively penetrate fatty layers of cells. Source of tocotrienols in nature include crude palm oil, rice bran oil and coconut oil, as well as cereal grains like oat, barley, rice bran and rye. Tocotrienols are marketed commercially from natural sources, and available in powder form and capsules. Just like vitamin E, dietary fat or emulsions are important for their absorption and bioavailability.
Of the four forms of tocotrienols, gamma and delta are the most effective ones in reducing cholesterol level. The cholesterol-lowering effect is possible by their action toward a specific enzyme called hepatic HMG-CoA reductase, and interruption of its production. This process leads to the inhibition of cholesterol manufactured by liver cells, thus lowering the total blood cholesterol up to 31 percent in four weeks.
Note that about 90 percent of the total cholesterol is produced by the body, and the rest is through the diet. Cholesterol production occurs as a self-regulating process that needs signals from the body to continue or stop its action. If one of the steps is hindered, it would not be able to complete its task. In comparison with other cholesterol-lowering compounds, tocotrienols have no side effects that can damage the organs of the body due to high enzyme level. This discovery is very important especially in developing drugs that can treat atherosclerosis or the deposition of fats on blood vessels. Just like alpha-tocopherol, humans with atherogenic risk will mostly benefit from tocotrienols as potential hypolipemic agent. Research also supports the idea of supplementing tocotrienols to resolve elevated plasma cholesterol, oxidized LDL and VLDL cholesterol and abnormal platelet aggregation, as it significantly showed positive results during clinical trials for both humans and animals. Tocotrienols are flexible enough to penetrate fatty layers of brain and liver as they function as superior antioxidants. To maximize the cholesterol reduction, a high-fiber and low-fat diet, as well as an active lifestyle, should be implemented.