Antioxidants that might reduce cardiac risk
The study, published in Nutrition and Metabolism, included 31 healthy women 35 to 49 years old and 31 healthy women over 50. Women in each age category were randomly assigned to receive either 160 mg (240 IU) of a tocotrienol-rich formulation of vitamin E per day for six months or placebo. The vitamin E, which was extracted from palm oil, was 76% tocotrienols and 24% tocopherols. Blood tests were done at the beginning, mid-point, and end of the study. The findings were as follows:
- HDL ("good") cholesterol levels and HDL- to total-cholesterol ratios increased in women taking the high-tocotrienol vitamin E, but not in women taking the placebo.
- The improvements in HDL- to total-cholesterol ratios in the women using vitamin E were estimated to represent a 22.5% reduction in cardiovascular risk.
- Blood levels of vitamin E and tocopherols rose in everyone receiving vitamin E, but tocotrienol levels only rose in the older age group.
- Laboratory tests showed that the amount of oxidative stress decreased. Oxidative stress appears to increase the risk of developing heart disease.
Nature knows best
Although we can't say for sure whether supplementing with a high-tocotrienol vitamin E can prevent heart disease, these findings suggest it might help. The study's authors noted that the possible health benefits of tocotrienols are likely to be linked to their ability to reduce oxidation reactions--the damaging reactions believed to be the basis of aging--in the body.
Based on their results, the study's authors proposed that the best way to stay healthy is to get an array of antioxidants, including all of the vitamin E compounds. "The tocotrienols are found in a wide variety of foods and it has been suggested recently that all eight isomers [chemical variations] of vitamin E may be necessary for optimum health," they said.
To get your tocotrienols
The amounts of tocotrienols used in this study are higher than you could reasonably get from food every day, but keep the following in mind if you would like to boost the amount in your diet:
- Palm oil is by far the richest source of tocotrienols.
- Coconut oil, rice bran oil, and wheat germ oil are all good sources of tocotrienols.
- Whole cereal grains including barley, rye, and oats can provide small amounts of tocotrienols.
(Nutr Metab 2011;8:42)