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Barrie Tan, PhD: Using Tocotrienols to Address Lifestyle and Metabolic Disease

In this interview from Dick Benson and Barrie Tan, PhD, from our partners at Integrative Medicine, a Clinician’s Journal, the two discuss the potential for tocotrienols to address non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and other metabolic health issues. See below for an excerpt of the interview and an opportunity to download the entire article.

Abstract/ Vitamin E has two subgroups, tocopherols and tocotrienols. In this interview, Dr Tan describes current sources and compositions of tocotrienols. The discussion also explores the anti-inflammatory properties observed with tocotrienol application in cardiovascular and metabolic disease, cancer, radiation exposure, and bone ailments; the nutrient’s potential in management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; and addresses recent studies highlighting tocotrienol’s role as the 21st century vitamin E. Tocotrienols from plant sources were first developed and brought to the market by Dr Tan, inventor of numerous processes for tocotrienol extraction from plants. These discoveries include tocotrienols from palm (1992), then rice (1998), and finally annatto (2002).

Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal (IMCJ): Can you discuss the potential for vitamin E tocotrienols to affect nonalcoholic fatty liver disease?

Dr Tan: When people have fatty liver, it is very hard to lower their liver enzymes, because the liver is so stressed. The organ is very intolerant to fat. The presence of a little bit more than 5% fat is called simple fatty liver. If a lot more than 5% of fat is present, then the condition progresses to something called NASH, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. When this occurs, the patient becomes the subject for a liver transplant. If you go down that road it’s very bad.

I did not know that the liver is so intolerant. To give you a concept of how intolerant that is, consider cirrhosis of the liver. This condition is usually due to insults by continuous alcohol consumption. However, in 1984 The Mayo Clinic had a patient who came in to have his liver examined. A liver biopsy was done and it looked like the liver was cirrhotic. The attending physician asked the patient, “Are you a chronic alcohol consumer?” The patient replied, “No, I never drink alcohol.” That was the first time fatty liver was ever reported outside the context of alcohol consumption, and hence the name to this day is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD. It’s a very awkward name to describe dysfunction of the liver that appears to be related to alcohol, but is not.

Now, if you put that in perspective today, for every person who has cirrhosis because of alcohol consumption, we have probably 20 to 40 people who have NAFLD. That means this is going to be a 21st century epidemic—unless we change our diets, that is. I cannot imagine there are enough liver transplants available for people with progressive NASH.Tocotrienols may be a compelling therapeutic approach to NAFLD. In a recent 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 71 NAFLD patients, researchers administered a dosage of 600 mg/day—300 mg twice daily—tocotrienols from annatto, which led to decreased biochemical levels and metabolic factors associated with fatty liver. Not only did patients lose an average of 10 pounds, but their fatty liver index score also decreased by 11%, indicating reduction of fat within the liver.

To learn more on how tocotrienols affect cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, download the entire interview below.

Barrie Tan, PhD, is founder and chief scientist at American River Nutrition. He has made notable contributions in the field of vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols, particularly in the area of plant-based tocotrienols. He spent 10 years as professor of chemistry and food science/nutrition at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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