Tocotrienol in palm oil found to may stop death of brain cells
Did you also know that about 50 percent of your brain is made of white matter? The health of your brain’s white matter affects how well it learns and functions. This is also the area of the brain most often affected by stroke. Prof Dr Yuen Kah Hay of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) explains how a natural form of Vitamin E found largely in palm oil, called tocotrienol, has proven to be able to stop brain cells from dying when one suffers a stroke.
“In the year 2000, there was a publication that was the first to show that alpha tocotrienol was able to protect the cultured brain cells from dying when challenged with glutamine (a chemical that is released during an ischemic stroke). This publication was the first to show in very low concentrations of alpha tocotrienol, brain cells would not die unlike when using alpha tocopherol,” explains Professor Yuen.
Thereafter, Dr Yuen and his group experimented with genetically modified mice, which are stroke-prone, which showed that tocotrienol can minimise cell damage. The promising results encouraged Dr Yuen to launch the first ever study in Malaysia on humans, testing whether tocotrienol really have neuroprotective abilities.
Started research on implied benefits
“We needed to tackle the issue of securing stroke patients – after a thorough discussion, we found the answer. There is a condition called White Matter Lesion (WML) which occurs in the elderly. It was found that hypertensive patients, diabetic patients and those having high cholesterol are at risk having WML. When there is not enough blood flow to the brain, the nerve fibres die off. MRI scans show them as white spots. The issue with WML is that they tend to grow bigger over the years and this affects the brain function – our cognitive functions. We felt that this would be a good model to study.”
“The hypothesis we aimed for the study is to see if tocotrienol is neuroprotective, and whether it would reduce the dying nerve fibres in the brain. The ones not taking tocotrienol, the white matter lesions will progress.”
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, leading tocotrienol researchers at USM followed 121 volunteers for two years. Each volunteer underwent MRIs to confirm the presence of WMLs. One group received 200mg of Tocovid Suprabio (mixed tocotrienols) twice daily for two years, while the others received placebos. All volunteers were instructed to maintain their regular diets and physical activity levels. MRIs were performed at entry into the study (baseline), and then repeated after one year and again after two years.
There was no statistical difference after the first year; however, results after year two were exciting. At two years of supplementation, the mean WML volume of the placebo group increased whereas those who received tocotrienol remained unchanged.
“We were very pleased with the results. The clinical study was published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke. This study is exciting because it is the first that provides solid evidence of neuroprotective benefits of tocotrienol in humans,” concluded Professor Yuen. — The Health Plus
“The hypo-thesis we aimed for the study is to see if tocotrienol is neuroprotective, and whether it would reduce the dying nerve fibres in the brain. The ones not taking tocotrienol, the white matter lesions will progress.”– Prof Dr Yuen Kah Hay
The common signs of stroke may include numbness at the side of the face, slurred speech, confusion, sudden blindness, unable to walk, and severe headache.
Role of tocotrienol in tackling Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Dementia is a term for a collection of symptoms of cognitive decline including disruptions in language, memory, attention, recognition, problem solving, and decision-making that interferes with daily activities and Professor Dr Yuen Kah Hay believes that there may be a solution to it.
“I’m currently planning a study that I believe has a huge potential, dementia. Worldwide, dementia is a huge issue because of our aging population. No one can escape from this aging phenomenon which is caused by the degeneration of brain tissues. There is a lot of evidence that White Matter Lesions (WML) are associated with neurodegenerative issues, dementia and the decrease in cognitive function. WML are also associated with Alzheimer’s. As we have confirmed, tocotrienol has neuroprotective properties.”
According to Professor Yuen, an institute in Sweden has published a paper looking at the relationship between blood levels of tocopherol and tocotrienol with the mental health of elderly patients. “The conclusion of the study is that if you have high levels of tocopherol and tocotrienol in your blood, you have a lower risk of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s and that applies vice versa. We are currently in the midst in designing a protocol to conduct this study.”