The Vitamin E Story
Vitamin E is not a single nutrient, but rather a complex made up of 8 distinct compounds: 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. These components have slightly different chemical structures, and these differences impart unique properties that influence their biochemical functions and their effects in the body. Most conventional supplements are typically rich in tocopherols-alpha-tocopherol, in particular-but the tocotrienol fractions have unique effects across a variety of tissues that make them desirable to supplement on their own, without tocopherols.
Rich sources of vitamin E include whole grains, such as wheat (especially wheat germ), rice, barley, oats and corn, select leafy green vegetables, and palm fruit. Most of these foods, however, are higher in tocopherols than tocotrienols. The richest known source of naturally occurring tocotrienols is annatto, a tree native to Latin America. Annatto is virtually free of tocopherols and contains nearly 100% tocotrienols, all in the most potent forms. The tocotrienols in this product are sourced from seeds of annatto, so they’re exclusively tocotrienols.
Tocotrienols, especially delta-tocotrienol as sourced from the annatto plant (Bixa orellana), have shown impressive effects in supporting overall health. Tocotrienols are associated with significantly positive effects on cardiovascular health, particularly with regard to influencing healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They may also be beneficial for a healthy inflammatory response, an important asset since chronic inflammation is a factor in damage to the cardiovascular system.
Having a positive influence on lipids (fats in the blood), tocotrienols may be beneficial for those with a buildup of fat in the liver, as well as those who need help managing blood sugar and insulin levels. Clinical research also suggests tocotrienols may be a valuable addition to the supplement regimens of those who need nutritional support for strong, healthy bones.
Perhaps the best known role for the vitamin E complex is as an antioxidant. For this purpose, vitamin E is uniquely shaped to reside within the lipid cell membrane to protect its integrity. Tocopherol has antioxidant effects, but tocotrienol is up to 40-60x more potent at protecting against cellular damage from harmful free radicals. This is due to its smaller and more flexible molecular structure, allowing tocotrienol – and especially delta-tocotrienol – to be more easily incorporated into cell membranes.
Supplements claiming to contain “vitamin E” are often only alpha-tocopherol. While alpha-tocopherol has beneficial effects of its own, it has been shown to interfere with the positive effects of tocotrienols, and it also inhibits absorption of tocotrienols and causes them to break down faster. For this reason, it’s best to take tocotrienols by themselves, and if you take other supplements that contain alpha-tocopherol, it’s recommended to separate tocotrienol and tocopherol supplementation by at least 6 hours.