Delta-tocotrienol upstages alpha-tocopherol in fatty liver disease trial

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

@ Elis Cora / Getty Images
@ Elis Cora / Getty Images

Related tags Tocotrienol Tocopherol Vitamin e Fatty liver disease

Supplementation with delta-tocotrienol may edge out the competition in improving biomarkers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), says a study conducted at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Pakistan.

The new study hypothesizes that due to tocotrienol’s superior antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, this vitamin E isomer may be more effective than alpha-tocopherol for those affected by fatty liver disease,”​ the researchers wrote.

According to the Mayo Clinic, NAFLD affects approximately 80 to 100 million adults in the United States and can transition to the more serious non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Delta-tocotrienol vs. alpha-tocopherol 

Delta-tocotrienol – a potent Vitamin E antioxidant found in annatto, the lipstick-red extract derived from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa Orellana)​ – was first isolated by biochemist and Vitamin E expert Barrie Tan. 

It has been sold as DeltaGold through his natural health R&D company American River Nutrition since 1998, marketed as “fifty times stronger and faster Vitamin E”​ in supporting immune and antioxidant health.

Modern research shows that annatto contains tocotrienol, a phytonutrient with extraordinary antioxidant properties,” ​the company claims.

Annatto is the only plant source to provide exclusively the delta- and gamma-tocotrienols– the most potent forms of Vitamin E. Annatto is also free of tocopherols, an important feature since alpha-tocopherol interferes with tocotrienol biochemistry.”

Alpha-tocopherol, on the other hand, is the most prevalent of the eight forms of Vitamin E. It is currently recommended at a dose of 800 IU per day as a complementary treatment for NASH in combination with improved diet and exercise.

American River Nutrition counters that “unfortunately, Vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherol has not received a good review by the United States Preventive Services Task Force”​ in the Journal of the American Medical Association​ in June 2022 for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Study details

The double-blind, active-controlled trial conducted by the Pakistani researchers randomly assigned 100 patients with NAFLD to receive either 300 mg of delta-tocotrienol or 268 mg of alpha-tocopherol twice daily for 48 weeks. Clinical assessment, biochemical analysis and a computed tomography scan of the liver were conducted at baseline, 24 weeks and 48 weeks.

The study found that the two phytonutrients exerted equally beneficial effects in improving hepatic steatosis, oxidative stress and insulin resistance but that delta-tocotrienol was more potent than alpha-tocopherol in reducing body weight, inflammation and apoptosis associated with NAFLD.

“This is the first time delta-tocotrienol was compared head-to-head with alpha-tocopherol, and the results did not disappoint,” ​said Tan, noting that earlier trials comparing DeltaGold to a placebo group in NAFLD patients produced similar positive results.

“With the significant advantages of tocotrienol over tocopherol for weight loss and inflammation, the time has come to update the vitamin E guidance for NAFLD patients.” 

Annatto tocotrienols have also been clinically shown to support cardiovascular health, promote bone health, reduce inflammation, maintain healthy blood sugar levels, boost brain health, lower lipids and increase life expectancy in cancer patients.

Source:Complementary Therapies in Medicine
doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2022.102866
“Comparison of delta-tocotrienol and alpha-tocopherol effects on hepatic steatosis and inflammatory biomarkers in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A randomized double-blind active-controlled trial”
Authors: Pervez MA et al.

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