Proven – Vitamin E in palm oil can stop death of brain cells

Kota Kinabalu: A natural form of Vitamin E found largely in palm oil, called palm tocotrienols, has proven to be able to stop brain cells from dying when one suffers a stroke, a Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) study has found.

Its first human clinical trial, led by USM’s Prof. Yuen Kah Hay, found that palm tocotrienols has the ability to protect brain cells and lower the risk of stroke or reduce damage caused in the event of such an attack.

The breakthrough, however, began in Malaysia in 1980 following the world’s first discovery by Malaysian researchers and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) that the Vitamin E, Palm Tocotrienols has far more potent anti-oxidant than tocopherols, sourced from oil seeds like soya oil, canola and sunflower.

As tocotrienols could only be found in palm oil and rice bran oil, it was discovered the Vitamin E is made up of four variants of tocopherols and another four tocotrienols.

A researcher at the Ohio State University Medical Centre, Prof. Chandan K Sen, was the first to look seriously into tocotrienols and neuroprotection since 1998.

Having spent more than a decade studying tocotrienols’ potential neuroprotective abilities against stroke-induced injuries, Prof. Sen began to receive funding from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) from 2004.

With over 250 publications, Prof. Sen and his group of researchers found that tocotrienols are neuroprotective, able to protect brain cells, at low concentrations, what scientists term as nano-molar levels.

“While the burden of stroke on the survivor, caregivers and the healthcare is enormous, there is little study being done on the disease, especially when it comes to nutritional supplementation.

“And when you analyse the situation closely, you will see that there is no single category of drug – for example, neuroprotectants – that is able to give adequate protection against strokes,” Prof. Sen said in one of his interviews with

Meanwhile, Prof. Yuen said: “The American Study showed tocotrienols have neuro-protective effects on cultured brain cells.

They found that tocotrienols are involved in cell signalling.

They work by suppressing two key signals in the cells to prevent cells from dying.”

And thereafter Prof. Yuen group has experimented with genetically modified mice, which are stroke-prone, which showed that tocotrienols could minimise cell damage.

The promising result brought Prof. Yuen’s group to test it on 200 human volunteers – the first clinical trial – with White Matter Lesion (WML) or oxygen starved brain cells in January 2008, where placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind methods are done for two years.

It was completed in November last year and the results are now being finalised for publication.

However, showed after one year, the researchers found those taking 200mg of palm tocatrienols orally twice a day showed small increases in the WML volume, whereas those in the placebo group showed seven times more increases in WML volume.

The placebo group continued to show increases in the volume of lesions in the second year. However, those on placebo palm toctrienols showed a decrease.

“The evidence we have now suggest that if people take it as a neuro-protective supplement, it can prevent brain cells from dying in the event of a stroke and also stimulate the reconstruction of blood vessels after,” said Prof. Yuen.

This breakthrough suggests that taking about 200mg of palm tocotrienols twice daily as a preventative measure can prevent brain cells from dying in the event of stroke, claimed pharmaceutical firm, Hovid Pharmacy product executive, Sarah Ho.

The encouraging results of tocotrienols have led the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) to fund similar trials on diabetic patients as they are prone to nerve degeneration.

The study is now being done on 300 volunteers and is expected to take up to three years, with the collaboration of doctors from the Clinical Research Centre of Seberang Jaya Hospital and a few community health centres in Butterworth.

Malaysia is currently the world’s biggest tocotrienol producer and exporter.

A kilogramme of palm oil Vitamin E is priced at RM1,500.

Annually, Malaysia exports some RM50 million worth of palm oil health supplements to Europe, the US, Canada and Japan.

Source : Daily Express

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