Tocotrienols have been the subject of numerous scientific studies in recent years, with many of the outcomes centred around their hair growth and skin health benefits.
Malaysian firm ExcelVite has successfully harnessed them for nutri-cosmetic purposes with its proprietary palm tocotrienol complex EVNol SupraBio, which has been used by major cosmetics brand Shiseido (among others) for its skincare products.
The firm was also a finalist for EVNol SupraBio in the Ingredient of the Year: Healthy Ageing category at the very first NutraIngredients-Asia Awards, held the night before Vitafoods Asia.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia at this year's Vitafoods Asia trade show in Singapore, nutritionist Diyanah Roslan discussed the findings from clinical trials and other studies on the neuroprotective and hepatoprotective effects of EVNol SupraBio.
Beyond the surface
Beyond its cosmetic benefits, EVNol SupraBio was reported to have neuroprotective characteristics in a recent animal study.
Roslan said research into tocotrienols' brain health benefits began in earnest about two decades ago in the US, when Ohio State University's Professor Chandan Sen said alpha-tocotrienol was 1,000 times more potent than regular vitamin E (or alpa-tocopherol) in terms of neuroprotection.
The region's leading probiotic and microbiome event — Probiota Asia — will get underway in Singapore this month with a stellar line-up of speakers, including the likes of Blackmores, Danone, Herbalife and Life-Space, set to take to the stage.
Roslan said: "Following this finding, ExcelVite then involved and collaborated with Professor Sen and his team on brain protection research. We started with a series of in vitro studies, all funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), where we found that tocotrienols exerted neuroprotection via five molecular check points; these benefits were absent in tocopherol.
"We then moved onto in vivo studies. The same group of researchers demonstrated the neuroprotective effects of EVNol SupraBio, specifically in terms of reducing brain injury after stroke. They recently completed phases I and II of clinical trials, and a phase III human clinical study is currently underway."
Researchers outside the US have also been exploring the ingredient's brain neuroprotective effects, with a study in Malaysia reporting that it attenuates white matter lesions — an independent risk factor for stroke that normally occurs in older adults — in humans.
Roslan said, "We are excited about this development, as research in this area is moving in the right direction. Now, we hope the science and importance of tocotrienols in brain health will reach consumers via different platforms, such that tocotrienols will be considered as important as omega-3 for brain health.
"In fact, I would say that while DHA is essential for brain development, EVNol SupraBio is essential to protect healthy brain function."
The organ minder
Another key area of research into tocotrienols is liver health. Roslan elaborated on a 2012 study involving end-stage liver disease patients, some of whom were on a list awaiting liver transplants.
The study reported that after supplementation with EVNol SupraBio, subjects in the treatment group saw marked improvements in their MELD (Model for End-stage Liver Disease) score, such that their need for a liver transplant became less urgent.
Roslan said, "To date, two other published human studies on EVNol SupraBio in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have shown that palm tocotrienol complex was able to mitigate fatty liver in the study subjects.
"We are thrilled with the results, especially as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is known to be a precursor to metabolism syndrome, and are looking forward to more clinical trials that will hopefully uncover even greater potential for our product."