Supplements for IBS? Davos to undertake human trial of tocotrienols’ efficacy following mice findings

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

There are growing evidence which show that IBS and IBS-like symptoms are early signs of inflammatory bowel disease. ©Getty Images
There are growing evidence which show that IBS and IBS-like symptoms are early signs of inflammatory bowel disease. ©Getty Images

Related tags Vitamin e Irritable bowel syndrome Malaysia

Malaysian firm Davos Life Science is interested to find out the efficacy of tocotrienols in alleviating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in humans, following a recent successful mice study.

The firm recently published its findings on how oral supplementation of tocotrienols-rich fraction (TRF) – a palm oil extract – could alleviate the severity of ulcerative colitis in mice.

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that could lead to continuous inflammation in the digestive tract.

In the study, the healthy mice were used to compare against the mice that were induced with ulcerative colitis using dextran sulfate sodium (DSS).

The DSS induced-ulcerative colitis mice were then grouped into four treatment groups: 1) control, 2) 150mg/kg/day of TRF, 3) 150mg/kg/day of alpha-tocopherol (αTP) – also a form of vitamin E, and 4) 75mg/kg/day of 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA).

The results showed that mice treated with TRF had a lower disease activity index. The index is measured by the amount of body weight loss, stool consistency and bleeding. The higher the index, the higher the severity of ulcerative colitis.

For example, the mice that were supplemented with TRF had the lowest disease activity index as compared to mice that have received the other treatments and the control group. 

On the other hand, while 5-ASA treatment was the second best, the αTP treatment showed no protective effect at all.

Besides lowering the disease activity index, the researchers added that TRF also reduced the enlargement of spleen and the shortening of colon – two common consequences of DSS administration.

Tocotrienols’ uniqueness

The researchers suggested that the results could be due to tocotrienols’ ability to suppress the activation of NF-κB, a crucial transcription factor involved in mediating inflammation pathways, and is found in elevated levels in IBD patients.

“Our data showed that TRF was able to suppress NF-κB activity… In addition, TRF inhibited expression of IL-17 and TNF-α which are known as inducers of NF-κB activity

“These findings provide evidence that TRF possesses anti-inflammatory and anti- oxidative properties possibly by targeting NF-κB activity…” ​the researchers said.

They suggested that the protective effects of TRF could be due to its unique structure that allowed it to be better absorbed at the cellular level.

“Taken together, dietary supplementation of TRF may envisage protection against inflammation of gastrointestinal tract,”​ they concluded.

Next steps

Following the mice study, the firm’s section head of Biology, Dr Yap Wei Ney, told NutraIngredients-Asia​ that the next step would be to find out if similar effects could be seen in humans.

A key area of interest, she said, was to look at TRF’s efficacy in alleviating the symptoms of IBS, since there was growing evidence which showed that IBS and IBS-like symptoms were early symptoms of IBD.

Tocotrienols could offer a beacon of hope to IBS sufferers, as it has proven functionalities as an anti-inflammatory agent and could potentially be used to reduce symptoms.

“If results from the future clinical trial could prove tocotrienols’ efficacy in reducing IBS symptoms, it could potentially be developed as a supplement to offer a natural way of managing IBS,” ​she said.

Delivery system

The firm might also develop a suitable delivery system that targets tocotrienol into the colon if the human clinical trial shows good results.

 “We may consider designing an appropriate delivery system that specifically targets the tocotrienols into the colon.

“It is essential to have an effective delivery system to protect tocotrienols from being released in the stomach and small intestine, to allow for a higher concentration of tocotrienols to reach the colon with minimal systemic absorption,” ​Yap said.


Source: Journal of Nutrition Science and Vitaminology

Oral Supplementation of Tocotrienol-rich Fraction Alleviates Severity of Ulcerative Colitis in Mice

Authors: Tzuen Yih Saw et al

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