Vitamin E is just vitamin E, right? Not exactly.
Most of us know vitamin E as “alpha tocopherol” (whether we realize it or not). However, in addition to alpha, there are beta, delta, and gamma tocopherols as well as alpha, beta, delta, and gamma tocotrienols.
Of the eight forms of vitamin E, the tocotrienols receive considerably less attention than the tocopherols. Investigation into tocotrienols’ benefits and properties still only constitutes a small percentage of the research involving vitamin E.1
Despite the fact that alpha tocopherol may be the dominant form of vitamin E in the plasma,2 the essentiality of the tocotrienols cannot be denied.
Tocotrienols Guard Your Heart
One of the main factors causing heart disease is the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is also known as “bad cholesterol.” Tocotrienols become incorporated into these lipoproteins where they guard against their oxidation.3 Supplementation with tocotrienols has also exhibited a reduction in LDL levels.4,5
Research on alpha and delta tocotrienols indicate that they have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease, possibly due in part to their inhibition of inflammation.6,7
Research on Tocotrienols and Brain Health
Comparisons of plasma tocotrienol levels in individuals with varying degrees of brain function (from normal function to severe dysfunction) conveys the ability of tocotrienols to be supportive of healthy cognitive function.
Also of interest is that tocotrienol supplementation was found to halt the growth of white matter lesions in the brain8, 9
The Bottom Line
The information concerning tocotrienols’ many benefits is not intended to argue for the supplementation of tocotrienols over tocopherols, but to bring attention to this long-neglected half of the vitamin E family. It’s recommended to supplement with both tocopherols and tocotrienols to obtain the best nutritional status.
- Chandan KS et al. Mol Aspects Med.2007;28(5-6):692–728.
- Chow CK. Am J Clin Nutr. 1975 Jul;28(7):756-60.
- Suama C et al. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1993 Feb 24;1166(2-3):163-70.
- Qureshi AA et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Apr;53(4 Suppl):1021S-1026S.
- Baliarsingh S et al. Atherosclerosis. 2005 Oct;182(2):367-74.
- Theriault A et al. Atherosclerosis. 2002 Jan;160(1):21-30.
- Wu SJ et al. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Aug;52(8):921-9.
- Gopalan Y et al. Stroke. 2014 May;45(5):1422-8.
- J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2005;76:1286-1288