December 13, 2005
There are at least eight different kinds of Vitamin E, but typically we only get one of those in vitamin pills. One of the other kinds prevents arteriosclerosis, while a third kind has been shown to effectively lower the blood cholesterol levels of diabetics.
When you buy vitamin E in pill form, you almost always get alpha-tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol (natural and sometimes, unfortunately, synthetic) has also been used exclusively in almost all of the studies on vitamin E’s effectiveness against cardiovascular disease.
There are other tocopherols than alpha-tocopherol. They all share the same basic chemical structure but differ in their side chains. Tocopherol can come in alpha, beta, gamma, or delta forms depending on the position of its side chains. Apha-tocopherol, the type used in vitamin pills, has the greatest effect as a vitamin.
Tocotrienols, another vitamin E form, are less well known. They differ from the other forms by having three double binds in their side chain. They are found in palm oil as well as grains such as oats, barley, rice, and corn. Tocotrienols can also be found in alpha, beta, gamma, and delta forms.
These tocotrienols are coming into the spotlight. For many years, on the basis of animal studies and small studies using humans, there has been the suspicion that they are effective against atherosclerosis. For example, ten year ago an American randomised study with 50 test subjects showed that tocotrienols from palm oil definitely counteracted atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries. Unfortunately no follow up study has been preformed.
Recently an Indian randomised study has surfaced. It shows that tocotrienols from rice sources sink the cholesterol concentration in the blood of type 2 diabetics (old age diabetes). In this study 19 diabetics received placebos for a period of 60 days. Before or after this 60 period they received, for a similar period, capsules containing rice with high concentrations of tocotrienols (each participant received 3 mg tocotrienol per kilo bodyweight per day). The study was designed so that no one knew which participants received which pill at what time until the study was completed.
The results showed that the tocotrienols reduced the total cholesterol levels of the participant’s blood by no less than 30%. Even more encouraging, the “bad” cholesterol, (LDL cholesterol) which can become oxidised and cause atherosclerosis, fell by an astonishing 42%. This effect is just as pronounced as seen with traditional cholesterol lowering medication, the so called statins.
It seems that anyone who can get a hold of tocotrienols is free from seeking traditional cholesterol lowering treatment. But before this is certain and becomes common practice, a few things should be further looked analysed.
First and foremost, can the results of the aforementioned study be reproduced? As stated earlier tocotrienols were effective against atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries, but in the study which showed this effect, the participants’ total cholesterol was unchanged! Tocotrienol does not always lower cholesterol. But does it always counteract atherosclerosis? At best the answer is maybe, we don’t know. After looking at the results of the two studies we can hypothesise that the differences in their results could be the result of the different tocotrienol blends used. The first study used a palm oil extract while the second used a rice source. The differences between alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocotrienol is sufficient, their effects should differ.
Other things which we understand even less could also play a role. The likely cholesterol lowering effect of the rice tocotrienol should also be tested for possible side effects and the results of this should be compared with the side effects of traditional cholesterol medicine. A big job awaits researchers.
Meanwhile, the studies have shown with certainty that (apart from that oatmeal and brown rice are healthy) we are not finished with vitamin E or, more to the point, the E vitamins. There are many of them, and they have different effects. Their potential is very promising.
By: Vitality Council
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