Tocotrienol rules boost: Malaysia’s pending health claims will be beneficial in driving consumer awareness

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Palm oil is one of the most abundant natural sources of tocotrienols. ©Getty Images
Palm oil is one of the most abundant natural sources of tocotrienols. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Malaysia, Tocotrienol, Palm oil

Malaysia’s pending approval on palm tocotrienol’s antioxidant claims could help consumers gain a better understanding of the locally grown crop’s health benefits.

Malaysia is one of the world’s largest palm oil producer, alongside Indonesia. Although there has been scientific evidence showing tocotrienol-rich palm oil’s health benefits, the knowledge is largely confined within some groups of the healthcare professionals and consumers using the product.

However, an upcoming regulatory change which allows products containing tocotrienol rich fraction (TRF) to make certain health claims could change the situation.

In June this year, the Ministry of Health Malaysia’s Food Safety and Quality Division opened a public consultation​ on changes proposed to the Food Regulations 1985.

One of the proposed changes is to allow nutrient function claims for TRF.

There are two proposed claims: 1) TRF is an antioxidant and may help to reduce oxidative stress and 2) TRF may help to improve cognitive function.

To make these claims, a product would need to contain 10mg/100g of solid TRF or 10mg/100ml of liquid TRF.

The public consultation has ended on July 18 and the final changes are expected to be announced soon.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Bryan See, vice president of business development and technical support at Malaysia-based ingredient supplier PhytoGaia, believes that the claims would help promote the public’s awareness of TRF.

“Currently, only a certain segment of Malaysia’s population knows the benefits of tocotrienols from doctors or pharmacists, because they are using products containing tocotrienols for liver health, brain health, and stroke protection.

“The general healthy population without these [aforementioned] health concerns wouldn’t know what tocotrienol is or its benefits.

“If the health claims are approved, that will allow finished product brands to promote the benefits of tocotrienols,” ​See said.

The company, founded about one year ago, is itself a supplier of full spectrum tocotrienols/tocopherol complex branded TocoGaia. It also sells palm mixed-carotene complex under the brand CaroGaia. Both ingredients could be used in food supplements, functional foods and drinks, and cosmetics.

In fact, See believes that the proposed claims on TRF’s antioxidant ability are broad and general claims which could help expand the users of tocotrienol supplements from patients to healthy individuals.

Existing evidence

There is currently evidence on tocotrienol-rich vitamin E’s benefits for diabetic patients suffering from diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and renal functions.

An eight-week trial​ published in Nutrients​ has showed that the supplementation of tocotrienol-rich vitamin E could speed up nerve signal transmission and increase the serum level of nerve growth factor (NGF) in diabetic patients.

Another trial published in Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism​ showed that the intake of tocotrienol-rich vitamin E for 12 weeks had improved renal function of diabetic patients with damaged kidneys.

In fact, the results have persisted even nine months after the supplementation.

There are also potential benefits for skin health, hair growth​ and osteoporosis. ​ 

New research

As for PhytoGaia, See said that the company has engaged Monash University Malaysia in studying the effects of tocotrienols, carotene complex, and palm-sourced squalene, in reducing the side effects of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The study will start with an animal study before moving on to human clinical trials.

The animal study is currently pending ethics approval. If approved, the trial will involve four study groups, including the control group, a group taking only tocotrienol, a group taking only carotene complex, and a group taking tocotrienol, carotene complex and palm-sourced squalene.

Aside from reducing side effects from COVID-19 vaccinations, the study will also find out if there will be changes to immune-response after the interventions.

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