October 18, 2021 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition
Tocotrienols, the most potent form of vitamin E, have been heavily researched over the past 40 years. They have been shown to be very powerful antioxidants and offer significant protection for many systems in the body. Much of the recent research has shown this unique form of vitamin E provides significant support for healthy aging, especially in middle age and older adults.
Tocotrienols Protect Tissues and Essential Compounds
Vitamin E comes as tocopherols and tocotrienols, with each type having four naturally occurring forms (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma). Tocotrienols differ from tocopherols, as they have three unsaturated bonds in their side chains. This allows them to be more flexible and easily move into cell membranes with more powerful and different activity than tocopherols.
The supple nature of this fat-soluble vitamin helps it protect other delicate essential lipids, or fat-soluble compounds like cholesterol, omega-3 and omega-6 oils, vitamin D, and other substances, from free radicals. This helps protect signaling pathways, gene expression, mitochondria, and metabolic pathways throughout your body.
Tocotrienols antioxidant benefits have been found throughout the body including the breast, skin, kidney, bone, brain/nerve, prostate, lung, adipose tissues, and more. In these tissues, tocotrienols help modulate expression of the leptin hormone, iNOS, TNF-a, multiple interleukin compounds and NF-kappa B, etc. This supports numerous metabolic functions that affect blood sugar, blood pressure, wear and tear, and aging.
Tocotrienols, Cholesterol, Blood Vessels, and Fat Cells
Vitamin E is widely noted for its role in heart and cholesterol health. Delta and gamma tocotrienols are especially important as they interact with the HMG CoA reductase enzyme that directs cholesterol production. Tocotrienols communicate with HMG CoA reductase enzyme, which helps modulate the amount of cholesterol produced.
Tocotrienols support blood vessel relaxation and dilation with beneficial nitric oxide. They also protect the delicate inner endothelial lining of blood vessels from oxidative stress.
Researchers have also explored how tocotrienols affect fat cells, adipose tissue, and metabolism. Recent cell and animal studies suggest that tocotrienols restrain transcription factors, fatty acid production, and other molecular signals that pre-fat cells use to turn into fat cells. This effect reduces the number of fat cells, which can assist weight management and heart health.
Your Brain Needs Vitamin E
Your brain is a fatty organ in need of fat-soluble antioxidants for protection against free radical stress. Vitamin E as a fat-soluble vitamin with special unsaturated bonds makes it highly supportive for your brain.
A recent 2018 animal study explored the effects of tocotrienol metabolism in the hippocampus or memory center of the brain. Mice were fed tocotrienol rich palm oil for ten months. At the completion of the study, several markers were measured for brain health. Results showed improved spatial learning, memory recognition, and exploratory activity.
Other research showed that tocotrienols provided antioxidant protection to the cerebellum (back part of your brain) from methylmercury exposure. The cerebellum affects your balance, agility, and tolerance for motion, sound, and sensory input.
Recently, a 2020 systematic review study verified tocotrienols efficacy and safety as a potent antioxidant for the brain. Multiple cell and animal studies showed that tocotrienols provided highly supportive antioxidant protection with significantly reduced oxidative stress levels to the central nervous system.
Tocotrienols and Mitochondria
The story about tocotrienols and brain health must include a discussion about its support for mitochondria. All your cells, except red blood cells, have numerous mitochondria in them. These organelles are mighty powerhouses for energy production and several other vital functions. In the process of all the work that mitochondria perform, they release free radicals like reactive oxygen species (ROS).
ROS free radicals are highly damaging and affect mitochondria within the brain and other organs. Dysfunctional mitochondria in your brain, like the hippocampus, contribute to fatigue, mood stress, slower processing of information and age-related cognitive decline. Fat-soluble antioxidants are necessary to protect your brain mitochondria and cell membranes that surround them. Tocotrienols provide powerful antioxidant protection against reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the brain.
Tocotrienols Support Mitochondrial Autophagy and Apoptosis
Mitochondria support from tocotrienols helps other organs besides the brain. As tissues age and have unmet antioxidant stores, mitochondria within them become stressed and dysfunctional from free radical bombardment. Mitochondria and the tissues and organs that house them become stiff or scarred, experience leaky cell membranes, and become less efficient, which impairs normal cell division and repair. Antioxidants like tocotrienols aid in protection against the effects of age-related wear and tear and cell stress.
In a recent study, pancreatic cells were exposed to tocotrienols, which enhanced their mitochondria’s selective autophagy and apoptosis response i.e. house cleaning and remodeling process to remove worn out pancreatic cells. Tocotrienols also modulate apoptosis and autophagy in other cells and organs to support healthy aging.
Immune Cells Need Vitamin E
Vitamin E is also used by your immune system. Both tocopherols and tocotrienols forms are incorporated into immune cell membranes. Inside immune cells, vitamin E supports production and activation of antibodies, lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and T-cells. It provides antioxidant protection to immune cell membranes and enhances innate and adaptive immune respiratory responses related with age.
Bone Cells Use Tocotrienols
Cellular and animal studies demonstrated that tocotrienols suppress osteoclasts, which are cells that activate loss of bone cells. Animals given a mixture of vitamin E with tocotrienols showed improvement in bone microstructure, calcium content, mechanical strength, and cellular profile due to its antioxidant cell-protective effects.
Where Do You Find Tocotrienols?
Tocotrienols are very limited in foods. Annatto and palm oil are the two richest sources of tocotrienols followed by rice bran oil and coconut. Negligible amounts are found in cereals and fruits.
We source the tocotrienols in Daily Super E™ from a blend of annatto and certified sustainable palm oil. This results in a high amount of delta, gamma, and alpha tocotrienols. The palm oil is sourced only from sustainably produced virgin red palm from established plantations within Peninsular Malaysia. It is certified sustainable by the RSPO and the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council.
All too often, antioxidant stores are depleted with age, stress, toxins, immune challenges, and poor diet. With that comes a higher antioxidant need for cell membrane, mitochondrial, and autophagy housecleaning support. Aging well depends on many factors. You can impact how well you age with your daily lifestyle and nutritional choices. We consider vitamin E tocotrienols to be an essential daily nutrient for aging well and turning back the clock.