Vitamin E was first discovered as a fertility factor in 1922 in the laboratory of Herbert McLean Evans, a scientist and anatomist. Following this discovery, it was extensively researched and found to possess a potent antioxidant property. It soon dawned that the family of vitamin E has eight members: four tocopherols, namely α-, β-, δ- and γ-tocopherol; and four tocotrienols in the form of α-, β-, δ- and γ-tocotrienols. This chapter discusses this rather unknown and underrated isomer of vitamin E with unsurpassed health benefits: tocotrienols. Until recently, tocotrienols rarely figured in vitamin E research in spite of their relative superiority to tocopherol coupled with their abundant presence in palm oil. In fact, since palm oil contains about 70% of all tocotrienol homologues, it would be no exaggeration to call it nature’s best kept secret, if not the most promising natural substance in influencing health and disease. While highlighting the wonders of tocotrienols as a safe and efficacious product, this chapter offers a panoramic view of recent research into tocotrienols that demonstrates their undeniable benefits in conferring protection against cancer as well as a whole litany of ailments including cardiovascular, metabolic, autoimmune, bone and neurological diseases. Admittedly, many of these researches were conducted in the laboratory, with some preclinical trials translated into clinical trials. Nonetheless, it is hoped that more randomised clinical trials will be carried out on a global scale in the near future. From the vessels in the heart to the neurons in the brain, tocotrienols have the extraordinary potential to be the future of vitamin E research.
Part of the book: Vitamin E in Health and Disease