Author: Marie Moneysmith
Conventional wisdom tells us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But that doesn’t mean the parts themselves aren’t important. Tocotrienols, compounds that are found in vitamin E, are a good example. These vital substances are turning out to have a major role in good health, especially when it comes to preventing conditions associated with aging. “Tocotrienols are involved in many reactions in the body,” says Samer Koutoubi, M.D., Ph. D., assistant professor of nutrition at Bastyr University. “But they are especially important in protection against heart disease because they are antioxidants and also have the ability to inhibit cholesterol synthesis.”
To understand how tocotrienols work, we need to take a closer look at vitamin E. A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin E consists of eight elements; four of these are tocopherols, and the other four are tocotrienols. In both cases, the individual compounds are identified as “alpha,” “beta,” “delta” and “gamma.”
Vitamin E is recognized as a powerful antioxidant, and an especially heart-friendly nutrient. But with nuts and oil its primary sources, vitamin E is notoriously difficult to obtain from diet alone. In fact, as Oregon State University’s Morel Traber observed, “to obtain enough vitamin E from food to obtain a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly cancer you would need to consume nine tablespoons of olive oil, 75 slices of whole wheat bread, and 40 almonds or 200 peanuts each and every day.”
Unfortunately, tocotrienols are even harder to obtain from food alone. Oats, barley, rye, wheat germ, rice brain oil and palm oil are the richest sources, and none of these make regular appearances on American tables.
Tocotrienols are well worth seeking out, though. Recent clinical trials have shown these substances possess powerful antioxidant, anti-cancer and cholesterol-lowering abilities. Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, for example, found that both alpha- and delta-tocotrienols prevented “stickiness” in blood vessel cells, thereby reducing the likelihood of clogged arteries. In Switzerland, scientists found that tocotrienols, and gamma-tocotrienol in particular, lowered both total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol in animals. Earlier studies had shown that both gamma-tocotrienol alone and a patented, proprietary blend of mixed tocotrienols effectively lowered cholesterol in human subjects. The mixed tocotrienols product was also shown to reverse hardening of the carotid artery (a leading cause of strokes) in about one-fourth of the subjects, while no one in the control group, which was given a placebo, improved.
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