There’s a lot of excitement being generated around tocotrienols, members of the Vitamin E family that some research has shown to have tremendous health benefits.
Emerging studies suggest that tocotrienols may even affect how illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes and breast, prostate and skin cancers are treated in the future.
I talked to Dr. Joseph Keenan, M.D. about tocotrienols, the science behind their usage, and what you need to know about supplementing your diet with the essential nutrient.
Keenan, a joint professor in food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, is widely considered to be one of the leading national experts in the field of nutritional supplement research and cardiovascular disease.
For starters, he explained that not all forms of vitamin E are equal. It gets pretty complicated, but the vitamin E family is made up of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta).
Despite being touted in the 1980s as having health benefits, alpha tocopherols which are found in most vitamin E supplements showed lackluster, if not questionable, results.
Tocotrienols are found naturally in certain kinds of oil: rice bran, wheat, barley, annatto, red palm oil, coconut and cocoa butter.
While they are natural agents, they are generally absorbed in such low concentrations that they don’t have any appreciable benefits when consumed directly from a food source.
Red palm oil from Malaysia is the primary source generating the most excitement because it has the highest concentration of tocotrienol-rich fats which are so beneficial for the management of risk, prevention and recovery.
Keenan said that tropical oils like coconut and red palm oil got a bum rap in the late 1980s because they were thought to contribute to artery-clogging cholesterol. It turns out that quite the opposite is true.
Recent breast cancer research has shown that although tocopherols failed to offer any protection, tocotrienols used alone and in combination demonstrated convincing potential anticancer properties.