Tocotrienols found to protect livers in adults diagnosed with high cholesterol and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Results of a 12-month clinical study conducted by researchers at Universiti Sains Malaysia reveal that tocotrienols derived from Malaysian palm oil appear to help protect the livers of adults diagnosed with high cholesterol and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). The research was published in the Nutrition Journal.

NAFLD is one of the most common liver disorders, possibly triggered by obesity, insulin resistance, lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress. Previous research has found that NAFLD patients typically do not consume the recommended amounts of vitamin E. There are eight forms of vitamin E: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Until now, no clinical trial has investigated the relationship between tocotrienols and NAFLD.

In this randomized pilot study, researchers wanted to know if increasing dietary intake of tocotrienols would help the patients’ livers to normalize the amount of cholesterol they produced. Researchers followed 87 adults diagnosed with NAFLD, whose high cholesterol was untreated. The study participants received either a placebo or 200 mg of mixed tocotrienols twice daily for one year.

At the study’s conclusion, the livers of those adults who received the tocotrienols showed a significant improvement in their cholesterol production over those of the placebo group. And while the NAFLD disease worsened in two people in the placebo group, those in the tocotrienol group remained stable. There were no adverse effects to the tocotrienol usage reported.

In discussing their findings, the researchers speculated that the tocotrienols are effective in part because of how the body uses them. Previous studies have shown that tocotrienols tend to be absorbed best by the liver, where alpha tocotrienol has been found to a potent antioxidant. Tocotrienols have also been shown to help reduce inflammation and the accumulation of potentially harmful triglycerides in the liver. Other clinical studies have found that tocotrienols may significantly reduce total serum cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides.

“Larger cohort studies are warranted to further confirm the positive results of tocotrienols in NAFLD,” the researchers concluded.


E. Magosso, M.A. Ansari, Y. Gopalan, I.L. Shuaib, J.W. Wong, N.A. Khan, M.R. Abu Bakar, B.H Ng & H.H. Yuen.
Tocotrienols for normalisation of hepatic echogenic response in nonalcoholic fatty liver: a randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:166-173.doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-166

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