Tocotrienols are fat-soluble substances closely related to vitamin E. Like vitamin E, they have antioxidant properties, and help protect fatty substances in the body from being damaged by free radicals. In the 1990s, antioxidant supplements were thought to offer great potential for preventing a variety of diseases, including cancer and heart disease, and on this basis tocotrienols were offered on the market as healthful supplements. Tocotrienols have also been proposed for reducing cholesterol. However, subsequent studies have tended to pour cold water on all these hopes. At present, there is no reliable evidence that tocotrienols offer any meaningful health benefits.

Requirements/Sources

Tocotrienols are not essential nutrients. They occur naturally in the oil extract of barley, palm fruit, rice bran, and wheat germ. Most commercially available supplements are made from rice bran oil or palm oil.

Therapeutic Dosages

A typical recommended dose of tocotrienols is 200 mg daily.

Therapeutic Uses

While test-tube studies, animal studies, and open human trials seemed to suggest that tocotrienols can correct high cholesterol,9-21,25 properly designed studies failed to find benefit.22-24

Test-tube and animal studies, as well as one double-blind human trial have found promising hints that tocotrienols may help prevent cancer.1-8,26 The double-blind study among these specifically found that tocotrienols might help prevent DNA damage, which could, in theory, help prevent many disease associated with aging, not just cancer.26 However, none of this evidence rises above the level of "highly preliminary."

The hypothesis that tocotrienols can prevent heart disease simply by virtue of their antioxidant actions has lost favor, since the same hypothesis proved incorrect with vitamin E and beta-carotene.

The bottom line: The health benefits of tocotrienols, if there are any, remain to be established.

Safety Issues

Tocotrienols are thought to be safe substances. However, maximum safe doses have not been determined.