Why Your Vitamin E Supplement Could Be Harming You (& The “One Plant Wonder” Alternative That Could Be The Single Most Powerful Molecule If You’re Stranded On A Desert Island).

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At the recent A4M conference in Vegas, I ran into intriguing research from Dr. Barrie Tan, a scientist with a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biochemistry. For the last 35 years, Barrie has immersed himself in the world of Vitamin E (particularly from annatto) and is considered one of the world’s foremost experts credited with discovering a molecule called “tocotrienol” from three major natural sources:

  • Palm: from his native Malaysia…
  • Rice: at the invitation of the Prince of Thailand…
  • Annatto: chance finding while in Ecuador searching for lutein…

It turned out that palm and rice lacked the potency as they contain too much tocopherol, so Barrie moved his research interest away briefly from tocotrienol when by serendipity he found the best-in-class tocotrienol in the annatto plant from the Amazon. Since then, Barrie’s relationship with annatto has spanned 20 years. Barrie has worked with the US Armed Forces on using tocotrienol on “radiation countermeasures” and pioneered the science behind the annatto working with the leading scientists in the world to prove the multiple benefits of tocotrienol.

Meanwhile, everyone (lay folk and nutritionist) is languishing with the lack-luster non-performing tocopherol, which Barrie calls the “wrong way to E.” Most tocopherol trials failed and did not deliver. But in multiple clinical trials spanning chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, osteopenia, and inflammation, tocotrienol from annatto has proven clinical benefits. Barrie is currently working on multiple cancer trials after preliminary success with end-stage patients.

This is because not all forms of Vitamin E are created equal…

…Vitamin E is not a single nutrient, but rather a complex made up of 8 distinct compounds: 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. These components have slightly different chemical structures, and these differences impart unique properties that influence their biochemical functions and their effects in the body. Most conventional supplements are typically rich in tocopherols—alpha-tocopherol, in particular—but the tocotrienol fractions have unique effects across a variety of tissues that make them desirable to supplement on their own, without tocopherols.

Tocotrienols, especially delta-tocotrienol as sourced from the annatto plant (bixa orellana), have shown impressive effects in supporting overall health. Tocotrienols are associated with significantly positive effects on cardiovascular health, particularly with regard to influencing healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They may also be beneficial for a healthy inflammatory response, an important asset since chronic inflammation is a factor in damage to the cardiovascular system.

Having a positive influence on lipids (fats in the blood), tocotrienols may be beneficial for those with a buildup of fat in the liver, as well as those who need help managing blood sugar and insulin levels. Clinical research also suggests tocotrienols may be a valuable addition to the supplement regimens of those who need nutritional support for strong, healthy bones.

Here is a recent remark of Jonathan Lizotte, Designs for Health Founder and Board Chairman:

“The health benefits realized by annatto tocotrienol go beyond that of any other nutrient I know. It’s the one supplement I would want with me if I were stranded on a desert island! This is a change for me as after 35 years in this industry, my top desert island supplements have switched between magnesium and fish oil and now it stands firmly as annatto tocotrienol alone. A minimum of 150 mg per day is a must for every adult alive.”

Apart from tocotrienol, Barrie discovered and has extracted the first-in-class geranylgeraniol (GG), also from the annatto plant. GG has benefits as 1) testosterone and progesterone booster; 2) pain alleviation and; 3) sarcopenia, myopathy and muscle building from this endogenous nutrient. GG is the last common step between plant and mammal (has huge implications), and may possibly be the last frontier in anti-aging nutrients. Here are Dr. Tan’s two anti-aging bottom-line nutrients: tocotrienol (exogenous) will work from outside-in, and geranylgeraniol (endogenous) will work from inside-out.

After recording this podcast, I did a bit of additional research so that I could determine whether or not I should throw out all my supplements that have any forms of alpha tocopherol.

There is also evidence that tocotrienols may provide some specific benefits (improving lipid profiles), but they are not necessarily meant to be a replacement for tocopherols. The literature around the tocopherols is clouded by the isomeric form of alpha tocopherol – specifically the synthetic “racemic” configuration used in most supplements (especially inexpensive, poorly researched Vitamin E and multivitamin formulations). Instead, using the complete R (racemic) form of alpha tocopherol alongside with the mixed tocopherols is a good approach, and that is what is utilized in the multivitamin I personally use (this one).

Synthetic vitamin E derived from petroleum products is manufactured as all-racemic alpha tocopheryl acetate with a mixture of eight stereoisomers. In this mixture, only one alpha-tocopherol molecule of the eight molecules found in Vitamin E is in the form of RRR-alpha-tocopherol (12.5% of the total). But natural alpha-tocopherol is always completely the RRR-alpha (or ddd-alpha) form. The synthetic dl,dl,dl-alpha (“dl-alpha”) form is not as active as the natural ddd-alpha (“d-alpha”) tocopherol form. This is mainly due to reduced vitamin activity of the 4 possible stereoisomers which are represented by the l or S enantiomer at the first stereocenter (an S or l configuration between the chromanol ring and the tail, i.e., the SRR, SRS, SSR, and SSS stereoisomers).

In nature, alpha-tocopherols naturally occur in the d- isomer form, which is more active than the synthetic racemic dl- isomer form. The alpha form of tocopherol was originally designated d-alpha-tocopherol on the basis of its optical activity.  The alpha-tocopherol form constitutes 90 percent of the tocopherol found in humans, with the largest quantities in blood and tissues. Normal blood plasma consists of 83-percent d-alpha-tocopherol and 13-percent d-gamma-tocopherol. It has been found that long-term supplementation with just an d-alpha-tocopherol vitamin E supplement results in blood plasma levels of d-gamma-tocopherols being lowered by 30 to 50 percent. As a result, some researchers now recommend, to those who are interested in taking a vitamin E supplement, to select one with mixed tocopherols.

Naturally sourced d-alpha-tocopherol can be extracted and purified from seed oils, or gamma-tocopherol can be extracted, purified, and methylated to create d-alpha-tocopherol. In contrast to alpha-tocopherol extracted from plants, which is also called d-alpha-tocopherol, industrial synthesis creates dl-alpha-tocopherol. This synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol has approximately 50% of the potency of d-alpha-tocopherol. Manufacturers of dietary supplements and fortified foods for humans or domesticated animals then convert the phenol form of the vitamin to an ester using either acetic acid or succinic acid because the esters are more chemically stable, providing for a longer shelf-life. The ester forms are de-esterified in the gut and absorbed as free alpha-tocopherol (more info on this here).

Brain spinning yet? Here's the bullet points:

a) The “natural” form is “d” or “R”. It is a way for chemists to capture nature-made compounds as they rotate optically. “d” is for dextro, and “R” is for rectus, meaning plant-derived vitamin E optically rotates to the right only.

b) The synthetic form is “dl” or “RS”. It is a way for chemists to capture a man-made compounds as they rotate optically both to the right (d, R) and left (l, S), hence the designations “dl” or “RS”. Chemists refer to these compounds as racemic mixtures. The “dl” version is used more commonly in labels provided manufacturers are even transparent to label so.

c) In the man-made synthetic version, and in order to make alpha-tocopherol cheaply, chemists have difficulty controlling the optical rotation of these compounds. In the case of a racemic vitamin E alpha-tocopherol, 8 alpha-tocopherols are produced.

d) Only one of the 8 alpha-tocopherols produced in chemical synthesis is nature-identical (meaning 1-in-8 is actually d-alpha-tocopherol), therefore 87.5% chemically-produced alpha-tocopherols are never found in nature. These 7-of-8 alpha-tocopherols are counterfeit Es.

e) Even the “natural” vitamin E on the market (d-alpha-tocopherol) is not truly nature-derived, but semi-synthetic. They were chemically synthesized (via chemical methylation process) to convert all isomeric tocopherols to alpha-tocopherol.

f)  Item 2e) was done because the currency (until recently) for vitamin E is “IU” not “mg”. For example: Alpha-Tocopherol: 10mg=10IU; Gamma-Tocopherol: 10mg=1IU; Tocotrienols  10mg=Low/Unknown   

This makes synthetic vitamin E manufacturers more profitable (for decades)! This currency of vitamin E is completely erroneous. FDA stopped the usage of ‘IU’ for vitamin E only last year.

Dr. Tan also provided me with the following information that further reflects the benefits of tocotrienols and the fact that's it's not necessarily bad to consume a natural form of tocopherol, but that adding tocotrienols in or replacing the tocopherol with tocotrienol could give even more benefit:

a) When we talk about “isomers”, I am referring to the closely related compounds of a series a plant makes. In vitamin E tocopherols, they are prefixed by alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-, referring to the number and position of methyl groups on the phenol ring. This ingenuity of the plant kingdom with respect to methyl groups greatly affect the antioxidative (and hence free-radical capturing) capability of that isomeric tocopherol. In complex heterogeneous systems – meaning cells and cell walls and food matrices, not homogeneous oils and fats – very often the ranking priority of antioxidant potency of tocopherols is delta- ≥ gamma- > alpha-; beta- is less studied and nearly not found in nature.

b) These “isomers” are also analogous in the vitamin E tocotrienol series. [Tocotrienols were discovered in the 1960s, 40-50 years after tocopherols (1920s), therefore their discovered functions are similarly delayed.] In complex heterogeneous systems – meaning cells and cell walls and food matrices, not homogeneous oils and fats – very often the ranking priority of antioxidant potency of tocotrienols is delta- ≥ gamma- > alpha-; beta- is less studied and nearly not found in nature.

c) There is a difference in the “tail” of the vitamin E molecule. A saturated (no double bonds) tail is characteristic of tocopherol. It is longer than the unsaturated (3 double bonds) tail characteristic of tocotrienol. The most important implication of the tail is in the phospholipid protection of cell walls that constitute all the 38 trillion cells in the human body. University of California/Berkeley’s Lester Packer showed this almost 25 years ago (1995). Tocopherol’s longer tail anchors deeply into the membrane, spins on the bean-shaped cell at 1x speed to capture run-away oxygen radicals that cling to the unsaturated phospholipid-PUFA of lipids. Tocotrienol’s shorter tail anchors shallowly into the membrane, spins on the bean-shaped cell at 50x speed to capture run-away oxygen radicals that cling to the unsaturated phospholipid-PUFA of lipids. Tocopherol and tocotrienol do the same thing, just that tocotrienol mops up the fragile (labile) lipid radicals 50x faster than tocopherol. Therefore, a tocopherol acts like a local policeman capturing the bad guys in town, whereas tocotrienol is like a state trooper, capturing the bad guys state-wide.

d) At about the time the huge alpha-tocopherol trials were raging (1980s) – and before the negative results descended – University of Wisconsin/Madison’s Asaf Qureshi showed for the first time that tocotrienol has differentiated functions from tocopherol. It was lipid reduction (1980s), cancer reduction (1990s), metabolic syndrome reduction (2000s), and other chronic conditions (2010s). I have been involved in this tocopherol-turned-tocotrienol vitamin E revolution. To date, we have been involved with 15+ clinical trials with annatto tocotrienols alone.

e) Using alpha-tocopherol is a goner, natural or synthetic. We even revisit the original claim where alpha-tocopherol became a “vitamin” superstar (1920s). It was a vitamin because it brings the embryo-fetus to full term; it was discovered as a fertility vitamin, later evolved into an antioxidant vitamin. One of our studies showed that delta-tocotrienol (from annatto) is a good/safe replacement in reproductive health. The researchers concluded, “The present study showed novel findings on the ability of annatto delta-TCT in providing promising effects on embryonic development, which might serve as an alternative to alpha-TOC.”

f) There is some utility to mixed tocopherols, however, I contend that we have enough mixed tocopherols in our diet. In the Western world – comparing North America to Europe – our US-based diet has more mixed tocopherols, whereas the Europe-based diet has more alpha-tocopherol. Wdo not need supplemental mixed tocopherols (without intrinsic harm) but we definitely do not need alpha-tocopherol (with intrinsic harm).

Furthermore, in the literature, there have been numerous studies where tocopherols have proven to be beneficial, including non-alcohol fatty liver disease (there actually is an extensive review of the literature showing that alpha tocopherol helps fatty liver). But, during a recent literature search on NAFLD, Dr. Tan found that 800IU/day of alpha-tocopherol (a huge amount) worked on adults, but failed to work in adolescents with NAFLD. He showed that annatto tocotrienols (absent of tocopherols) worked on adults with NAFLD (we did not trial children). In the trial(s), tocotrienol mitigated NAFLD based on many extensive biomarkers in a much shorter time period. He is confident that this is due to tocotrienol’s ability to access the phospholipids of cells in general, and the liver in particular, to bring about this dramatic effect. More dramatically, tocotrienols – but not alpha-tocopherol – reduce severe inflammation and oxidation (of lipid products) in NAFLD and hepatitis C patients. All known antioxidants (e.g., CoQ10, lycopene, beta-carotene, astaxanthin, lutein, curcumin, resveratrol, etc.) amount to <10% deposited in the cell phospholipids, all vitamin E molecules amount to >90%! This one-of-a-kind structure allows tocotrienol to access cell walls (especially liver cells) to perform their functions “fast and furious.

Ultimately, like all vitamin trials, the vitamin E debate is marred by cheap forms and inadequate dosing. The tocotrienol class is definitely something to watch, but to date doesn't surpass the mixed tocopherols in my mind, especially if you A) aren't “overdosing” with mixed tocopherols and B) aren't using the synthetic form.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-How Dr. Tan discovered annatto and became interested in vitamin E…9:05

  • Began while an assistant prof at U of Mass in Amherst
  • Palm oil in his native Malaysia is orange; is bleached out when it's processed
  • Received grant from the Malaysian government to research
  • Research process on palm oil:
    • Remove all fats and oil
    • Remove all kerosene colors (orange)
    • 25% of what was left was alpha-tocopherol, the most common variant of vitamin E
    • Remainder was tocotrienol
  • Led to research on different forms of lung cancer (stopped soon after)
  • Prince of Thailand hired him to research
    • Buddhists don't like anything mitochondrial related
    • Wanted plant-derived, not animal-derived research
    • Most beneficial results came from rice bran oil (contained tocotrienol)
    • Research funding slowed due to a slow economy in 1987
  • Needed a break in 1998 from studying tocotrienol; this led to studying treating macular degeneration
  • Vitamin E is made up of 8 different compounds
    • 4 of them are tocopherols; 4 are tocotrienols
    • The most common are tocopherols, particularly alpha-tocopherols
    • Tocotrienols are less common and are the locus of Dr. Tan's research
    • Research on the efficacy of vitamin E as it pertains to exercise was primarily done on tocopherols
  • Vitamin E was discovered in 1922 at Berkeley
    • Was extracted from spinach
    • Assisted in bringing fetus to full-term
  • Alpha-tocopherol is the “currency” of vitamin E; all other strains (delta, gamma tocopherol) is converted into alpha during processing
    • Even “all-natural” alpha-tocopherol is partly synthetic
  • How to undo the damage from an alpha-tocopherol heavy supplement:
    • Best thing is to stop taking alpha-tocopherol supplement
    • Ideal intake of alpha-tocopherol is 15 mg per day, derived from natural foods
  • If you didn't get all that, get this… A vitamin E supplement is not derived from what we would find in nature. It is only a few strands of tocopherol, mostly alpha-tocopherol. The original use of alpha-tocopherol has long outlived its purpose. Dr. Tan advocates for the other strands, particularly tocotrienols for humans to derive the full benefits of vitamin E.

-The major differences between alpha-tocopherols and tocotrienols…30:55

  • Tri = 3; E = double bond
  • Tocopherol has a head with an OH group; tail is saturated
  • Tocotrienol tail has 3 double bonds, so it is unsaturated; head is smaller than tocopherol
  • Lipid antioxidants are the low-hanging fruit for our body to be oxidized
  • Astaxanthin is a powerful singlet antioxidant (efficacious in an environment that is oxygen-deficient)
  • >90% of antioxidants in the phospholipid cells are vitamin E molecules
    • Remaining ~10% are hydrocarbon caratonoids
    • Beta carotene and lycopene contain nothing else than hydrogen and carbon
  • 1995 study by Dr. Lester Packer of UC Berkeley:
    • Used electron-resonance spectroscopy to compare alpha-tocopherol and tocotrienol
    • Concluded that both capture free radicals, to protect the lipid from oxidation
    • However, tocotrienol is 50 times more effective in protecting the cell
    • Comparison: Tocopherol is like municipal police within a small jurisdiction; tocotrienol is like a state trooper with far larger jurisdiction
  • Tocotrienol recruits to cancer cells 10X more than tocopherol
  • Critics say that only alpha-tocopherol is found in the blood; therefore all advocacy for tocotrienol is moot
    • Only alpha-tocopherol has a “transport protein”, which chaperones a particular molecule to a site of action
    • The transport protein ensures the conservation of alpha-tocopherol (which is why supplementation is bad news)

-Dr. Tan's discovery of the amazing annatto plant while living in South America…43:20

  • Went to find lutein and zeaxanthin
  • Discovered the annatto while searching for marigold flowers in Brazil
    • It was nicknamed the “lipstick plant” due to its intense red color on the inside
    • South Americans called it “achuite”; is used as a food coloring
  • Dr. Tan recognized the annatto to be a caratenoid:
    • Carotene in nature has to be protected by something due to its instability (plants changing color in the spring)
    • Because the annatto did not change color, he realized it was a potentially powerful antioxidant
    • Biggest surprise of his research:
      • Did not contain polyphenols, nor any type of tocopherol.
      • It contained primarily delta-tocotrienol, which had been shown to be the most potent form of vitamin E.
    • The plant is naturally free of any type of tocopherol

-How the annatto plant is used to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)…52:30

  • NAFLD is the new name for “metabolic syndrome”
  • 20% of youth and 40% of adults in America are obese
  • 3 of 5 risk markers:
    • Elevated triglycerides
    • Reduced HDL
    • Increased weight circumference
  • 80-100 million Americans have NAFLD in some form
  • The liver is very intolerant of fat
  • Symptoms resemble those of alcoholics, hence the name “non-alcoholic”
  • Notable data from Dr. Tan's study:
    • Gave people 600 mg of tocotrienol vitamin E; 300 mg twice daily
    • 70 patients; double-blind; placebo controlled
    • Did at the beginning, 3 months after, 6 months after
    • 3 months: lost average of 10 pounds
    • 6 months: lost average of 17 pounds
    • Waist circumference dropped 3 cm
  • Use caution when purchasing products using the words “liver support” in its packaging

-The other compound Dr. Tan found in the annatto plant in addition to tocotrienols…1:03:10

  • GG: Geranyl Geraniol
  • It's an endogenous nutrient, naturally produced by the human body
  • Helps with the synthesis of testosterone
    • Older folks take it, not for the sex drive, but to have a zest for life
  • Required for the synthesis of caratenoid
  • GG is a prerequisite for the synthesis of CoQ10
  • GG is currently in development; not currently on the market
  • Its use as a pain management tool is complimentary, but not similar to, CBD

-And much more!

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

Designs For Health Annatto-E

Book: Tocotrienols: Vitamin E Beyond Tocopherols

Book (edition 2): Tocotrienols: Vitamin E Beyond Tocopherols, Second Edition

Article: Annatto: Delivering tocotrienols from Amazonia

Article: Vitamin E: A closer look at tocotrienols

Episode Sponsors:

Kion: My personal playground for new supplement formulations. Ben Greenfield Fitness listeners receive a 10% discount off your entire order when you use discount code: BGF10.

Four Sigmatic: I’ve been using Four Sigmatic products for a while now and I’m impressed by the efficacies of their mushroom products. I use them. I like them. I support the mission! Receive 15% off your Four Sigmatic purchase when you use discount code: BENGREENFIELD

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92 thoughts on “Why Your Vitamin E Supplement Could Be Harming You (& The “One Plant Wonder” Alternative That Could Be The Single Most Powerful Molecule If You’re Stranded On A Desert Island).

  1. Ralf Schooneveld says:

    Highly interesting. I take NVol Vit-E from Malaysia.

    I would like to know how the 8 compare to eachother on an HPLC analysis.

  2. Greg says:

    Please ignore the typos in the last name of Dr. Barrie Tan.
    I would also appreciate it if Dr.Tan could comment on my question.

  3. Greg says:

    Hello Ben. I noticed the very important issue that was not addressed in your podcast with Dr. Berrie Tanand and that is the d-alpha tocopherols in omega fish supplements. They seem to be an all fish supplements, for example, I have a fish supplement that has 300 Omega-3 for each 1000 mg capsule. Am I to assume that the remanding 700 mg is the d-alpha-tocopherol?
    Your response on this would be greatly appreciated. You see I can’t really afford the creme-de-la-creme of fish oils They are far too expensive. Especially now the way things are with work and The Madness of this virus.
    Thx Stay Healthy

  4. Jim Ottinger says:

    I’ve been using Annatto Vitamin E for some time based on this interview. I know it is an antagonist with the typical tocopherol found in most multivitamins. I take the multivitamin and Annatto-E at different points of the day with meals. However since I usually do an 18/6 intermittent fast most days, I don’t get but a 6 hour buffer between them. Does anyone know of a quality multivitamin that would not be an antagonist to the Annatto-E or should I take the Annatto later towards bedtime without a meal? My intermittent fast eating window is earlier in the day, like 8 AM to 2 PM usually. Thanks if anyone has opinions on this.

  5. Robert says:

    Any idea if we should be taking all of the 8 Isomers of Vitamin E in a supplement or what would be the ones that would be helpful to take and what are the ones we are able to get from diet ? Its confusing when there are 8 Isomers as people will be scratching their heads when it comes to Vitamin E in their supplements. Also in what proportions based on what we know should we taking these 8 types of Vitamin E?

    My Naturelo one daily multivitamin has Vitamin E from Organic Rice Bran at 15 mg which contains – 25% alpha-tocopherols and 75% alpha-tocotrienols.

    Is this good or am I doing any damage here as Im clearly missing out on other isomers of vitamin E?

  6. Scott says:

    I just watched the Jonathan Lizotte interview in the Supplements Revealed series. Following that I went back and listened to this podcast and now I’m concerned that a loved one is not taking the correct vitamin E. We started using the 1000IU (670mg) d-Alpha & mixed Tocopherol supplement after reading the November 2017 study about Alzheimer’s and memantine. One group was taking 2000IUs (1340mg) of vitamin E faired better than those taking memantine. The study show that those on memantine alone actually declined at a faster rate than those taking the high dose vitamin E, and the group taking a combination of E and memantine.

    So previous research suggested that the tocopherol based vitamin E was protective when cancers were not present, but adversely when present, the vitamin E promoted or accelerated the growth of certain cancers.

    If Dr Tan, Mr Lizotte or Ben are still following this thread, I’d like to know your thoughts and if you were aware of the study. Regardless, I’ll probably be ordering Annatto E 300 very soon.

  7. Stephany says:

    My apologies if you’ve answered this already, but is there a vitamin out there that is best for a woman to take and then add the annatto Tocotrienol supplement to?

  8. Joe says:

    Dr. Tan,

    Hopefully you’re still checking this discussion. Thanks for all of your research on Vitamin E. I’ve taken various Vitamin E supplements over the years because I have familial hypobetalipoproteinemia (FHBL). It’s contributed to NAFLD and low levels of Vitamin E (leading to paresthesia in my hands). My original lipidologist who diagnosed me recommended 800-1200 IU daily of Vitamin E, but admitted there was little research for heterozygous FHBL. I have even tried water-soluble Aqua-E with TPGS since I have fat malabsorption issues. I still never got my liver enzymes back into the reference range. Then, admittedly along with some other supplements, I started taking a regiment of A.C. Grace Unique E (800 IU/864 mg) and 125 mg of annatto tocotrienols daily (at different times of the day). I have finally seen improvements, with my liver enzymes falling into the normal range for the first time in more than a decade. All that said, I’m still at a lost at whether I can decrease the tocopherols, and possibly even exclusively take annatto tocotrienols. With my progress, I’m hesitant to make a shift. So, my question to you (sorry for the long background) is where do you think optimum blood levels of Vitamin E should be, especially for someone with a genetic disposition to fall below reference? My recent Vit. E test showed a reference range of 5.7-19.9 mg/L and I’m barely in that range at 6.2 (with < 1.0 of beta-gamma-tocopherol). Compared to Vit. D, I see nothing discussed in terms of optimum Vit E. levels. Thanks again for all your wonderful research, it really helps those of us in particularly acute demand for Vitamin E due to genetic issues! BTW-I love to eat at Pulse Cafe in Hadley, and always want to take a drive by American River Nutrition…lol!

  9. Chris says:

    If tocotrienols can be a countermeasure against radiation, then perhaps EMFs fall into this category as well?

  10. Luc says:

    Dr. Tan, what dosage(150mn, 300mg) do you recommend for a healthy person and for a ill one? My father has some stomach problems( paragastritis and reflux) and I think this vit E with a good probiotic will help him. Do you recommned something else for his problems? thank you!

  11. Hans says:

    What about Pili Nuts, they are one of the highest in Vitamin E ?

  12. Bobby Oakes says:

    Hi guys. I was blown away by this podcast and am currently taking products that contain vitamin E succinate. I suspect this is a way to cut costs. Any thoughts? Thank you so much for being so amazing.

  13. Tetsuo says:

    Does tumeric have tocotrienol?

    1. Tumeric is not known to contain tocotrienols.

  14. Rosa says:

    Can you use tocotrienols topically? I normally add the vitamin E

    oil from the capsules to my face cream.

    1. Seems like it would be efficacious, but I haven't tried it yet personally.

    2. Tocotrienols can be used topically and added to face cream. A very small amount will be sufficient.

  15. Marty E says:

    What test(s) can I have run to learn my oxidative stress status? I am interested in trying tocotrienol and I want to a get baseline measure before I start. Beyond tracking oxidative stress are there other markers that would be good to track when supplementating with tocotrienols?

    1. I would recommend looking into the longevity panel I put together with WellnessFX: http://bit.ly/2XA4G1W

      1. Tiffany Smith says:

        Do you have a similar test for women? Or, can I take this test? I am a 56 and would love to have a comprehensive panel like this! Thank you.

        1. Tiffany Smith says:

          Also, I clicked on the links to order the tests and they are not working.

    2. SOme of the best oxidative stress markers include 8-hyrdoxy-2-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) in the urine (this was tested in a clinical trial in women with post-menopausal osteopenia, where tocotrienols significantly reduced this oxidative stress marker), and serum lipid peroxidases.

  16. betsy says:

    Why does some of the designs for health vit E sold in your supplement store say heat sensitive? Can most people take 300 mg 2x per day.

    1. The only concern with high heat (such as leaving the bottle in a hot car) is the sticking together of the softgel gelatin. Tocotrienols on their own, and especially within the hermetic seal of the softgels, are extrememly stable and not sensitive to heat. The recommended dosage depends on the application. one 300mg softgel taken with dinner will be sufficient for most people. In studies for cellular health benefits, higher dosages have been used (divided).

  17. marcin says:

    I’m curious, what’s the story behind how a-tocopherol becomes the currency of vitamin e? Is it just because the ratio of MG to IU was so profitable? How was that ratio established?

    I’ll take any leads :D

    1. Alpha-tocopherol was the first discovered vitamin E, because it was found to help prevent birth defects (fetal resorption) in mice. Hence, it was a “vitamin” for promoting birth to full term. It was not a “vitamin” because of oxidation protection, even though it does have these benefits. The common usage of IU for vitamin E is “antioxidant and antiaging protection” for men and women, not for expectant mothers. The use of ‘IU’ as vitamin E as a unit of measurement—which primarily is referring to ‘alpha-tocopherol’—is long antiquated and has lost its meaning from original scientific intention.

  18. Robert says:

    Ben and Dr. Tan,

    I am at 1 week into my supplementation Annatto-E 300 daily, and I believe you have (if anything) under-represented the effects. The most immediate benefit was vitality which I was not expecting so quickly, but it simply cannot be denied. Bloodwork again in June, but even with no or little improvement to blood markers, I will continue to supplement just for the sense of enthusiasm it has created in a very short time.

    1. Great to hear! Thank you for the feedback!

      1. Robert P. says:

        Follow up, 4 months of Annatto-E 300 daily. Type II diabetic, labs are back: Lipid panel is pretty much the same, but diabetic markers are:

        FBG from145 mg/dl to 97 mg/dl
        HbA1C from 7.3 to 6.4

        I’m speechless.

  19. Fantastic podcast, one of the best in a while. Dr. Tan is a treasure. Way back in 2009 I took a supplement called Toco-8 that had all the tocotrienols. I don’t think it’s around anymore though.

    1. Kevin McMahan says:

      Edit: Toco-8 was made by a company called Primordial Performance who was raided in 2017 (?) because they primarily sold steroids. They ceased operations and they seem to sell a “new and improved” toco product under a different brand you can find here:

      Of course, knowing what I know now, I would probably be hesitant about trusting this company, but I would be curious to see if anyone has thoughts on this particular formulation.

  20. Kurt Greener says:

    Great discussion and interesting topics. Dr. Tan, you sound genuine and informative. Ben, the product pricing looks good and what you say about being less is true as I have found it to be. My only question for either Ben or Dr. Tan;

    Do either of you take the vitamin E supplement discussed in the podcast?

    1. I have taken annatto tocotrienols since they became available!

  21. Russ says:

    Great podcast. What was the discount code again? Thank you

  22. Veronika Topicova says:

    Fantastic interview, really enjoyed listening to Dr. Tan. Thank you for doing such a great work Dr. Tan and also to Ben for this great interview! Would be interested to hear more information from the doctor in case he will be on the podcast again.

    1. Tiffany Smith says:


  23. Dárlo says:

    Hi Ben

    I’m Brazilian and I have an annatto three just inside my garden.

    Can I eat the seed? How can I obtain the vitamine E from the seeds?

    Thank you! Great job!

    1. marcin says:

      Awesome! I would definitely look into this if I had one in my yard. Chicago isn’t really annatto friendly.

    2. Marcin says:


    3. The annatto seed itself can be used in cooking oil, and a small amount of tocotrienol can be derived by cooking with this method. Cooking with annatto seeds would certainly add a small antioxidant benefit to the diet, and will likely protect the cooking oil itself from oxidation. To realize benefits for the more chronic health problems that occur with aging, a larger supplemental dose would be recommended.

  24. Mark says:

    Hi Barrie can your products be purchased in Australia?

    1. This product is not currently available in Australia, but we’ll update when it does.

  25. Brendon says:

    I just listened to this podcast. It was very informative!

    What do you think about the Vitamin E in Athletic Greens (100IU d-alpha tocopheral sccinate). Is it safe for a daily smoothie?



    1. marcin says:

      that’s a fair question. i think a lot was said on the terror that is alpha tocopherol, but less on beta, gamma, delta tocopherols. So, my general takeaway was just look for gamma and delta tocotrienols.

      problem is i still got a bunch of E that have those other beta, gamma, and delta tocopherols – and i’m sorta wondering if they’re just compost now? :’D

  26. bill says:

    Fantastic information. Simple question – take on empty stomach or with food?

    1. Tocotrienols, as fat-soluble vitamins, should always be taken with a meal.

  27. AIDA ARISTA says:

    Thank you so much both Ben Greenfield and Dr. Tan for this Education that give us the opportunity to be healthier and prevent diseases like cancer . I am a woman who had a surgery some years ago and one of my ovaries and my uterus were taken out. And I am some kind of prone to cancer. So thanks to people like Ben who has given me guidance on how to take care of my diet and my body, I am working on getting healthier. And now thanks so much to Dr. Tan that gives us this valuable information that can prevent and cure cancer. May the Lord bless you BOTH so much and your family.

  28. Rana Jaafar says:

    This episode was Amazing! Thank you for such insight and research Dr. Tan, and ben for bringing this to light. What is the difference between The Annato E 150, and the Annato E Synergy?

    1. Annatto E Synergy contains cumin seed oil, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

  29. Randall says:

    Should I avoid taking this on days I work out due to antioxidants blunting the positive effects of post workout inflammation?

    1. Although there is not a lot of research on tocotrienol in exercise science, one study in humans showed that tocotrienol reduced lipid peroxidation during exercise, whereas another animal study showed that tocotrienol reduced exercise-induced oxidative stress. In combination with whey protein, tocotrienol significantly increased exercise endurance in rats.

  30. Robert Allen says:

    Hi Ben and Dr. Tan,

    Thanks for spending so much time in the comments section this week. Do either of you or anyone know of any companies preparing a multi that includes the proper dosage of Tocotrinal? Is this something that could be achievable in an efficacious package?

    1. We will update once there is a product available.

  31. Arlene C says:

    I throughly enjoyed this episode and I have learned quite a bit. I recently gave a person I know vit E mixed tocopherols 400 iu as part of her supplementation for type II diabetes, now I am thinking was I wrong to do this? Diabetes was not touched upon in this episode. I had read articles about vitamin E and insulin sensitivity and favorable results regarding glycemic control so now I’m a little confused. Very fascinating podcast, thank you so much for sharing your work.

    1. Various animal studies have shown tocotrienol, and especially delta-tocotrienol, to affect important markers of metabolic syndrome and diabetes by enhancing glucose metabolism and improving insulin sensitivity. Tocotrienol also reduced lipids and abdominal adiposity. Importantly, clinical trials were shown to reduce triglyceride levels significantly, elevation of which typically precedes hyperglycemia. One condition that has been linked with metabolic syndrome is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In a clinical trial, tocotrienol lowered triglyceride levels, weight, BMI, waist circumference, C-reactive protein, and Fatty Liver Index.

  32. Mary Ann Kleie says:

    Ben this is one of the most fascinating, provocative podcasts I have heard from you in awhile! Excellent!

    I recently discovered that I I have gene variant GSTP1 (A;G) that could make supplementing with vitamin E less than beneficial. I am curious if this would mean any form, including tocotrienols. I have actually backed away from taking my multi-vitamin (The Big One) daily since learning about this.

    1. This is an interesting consideration that may support the idea of personalized nutrition. For individuals with gene variant GSTP1 (A:G), supplementation with alpha-tocopherol increases inflammation through elevated IL-6. One study showed that both tocopherols and tocotrienols inhibit GSTP1, which may have implications on xenobiotic detoxification. There is not much research on this subject, but it seems that with your personal genetic history, you may want to avoid vitamin E in general. I will look into this subject further, thank you for posting!

    2. Lynn McGaha says:

      Mary Ann, thanks for your question about the impact of GSTP1 on vitamin E supplementation, and Dr. Tan for your reply to her. I have the homozygous polymorphism (G,G) for GSTP1 rs1695. The podcast convinced me that I should find a source for annatto tocotrienols because I had no idea of any potential negative impacts that gene variant would have on Vitamin E supplementation. Though I was aware GSTP1 variations would cause detoxification inefficiencies. I hope Dr. Tan will look into this subject further.

      If you know of any good sources for learning more about GSTP1, I would welcome suggestions.

  33. Aldo says:

    Hi, I live in Mexico and have easy access to Achiote.

    Is it a good idea to supplement with it?

    1. According to Dr Tan, it is the same thing as annatto… So my guess is it would be great as long as it's cleanly sourced and nothing negative added to it.

    2. The annatto/achiote seed itself can be used in cooking oil, and a small amount of tocotrienol can be derived by cooking with this method. Cooking with annatto seeds would certainly add a small antioxidant benefit to the diet, and will likely protect the cooking oil itself from oxidation. To realize benefits for the more chronic health problems that occur with aging, a larger supplemental dose would be recommended.

  34. Sean T says:

    Ben – Great podcast, very informative.

    My fish oil supplement and all the ones I find online had added tocopherols. I need to find one without tocoperhols or perhaps with tocotrienol. Do you have any suggestions?

  35. Andrea says:

    Hey Ben, great podcast. The Truth About Cancer is currently airing its new series from 7 countries in Asia, it’s fascinating. Pretty sure they talk about this plant. Also have u tried or thought about using Young Living’s hydrogen water bottle (hydrogize)? Just wondering your thoughts on this.

    1. Thanks… Haven't tried that one yet.

  36. Abul Hasan says:

    Hi, where can this be obtained as a supplement?

      1. shaun says:

        Hi Ben – Why is that not available from Kion out of curiosity?

    1. Lydia Halioua says:

      Andrew Lessman, owner of nutrtional supplements company, ProCaps Laboratories in Henderson , Nevada, has a complete tocotrienols products with all 8 forms of the vitamin. His products are amazing and 100 prrcent natural with nothing but the vitamin ingredient. I highly recommend any and all of his products. A few times a year, he also come on HSN, at which ti e all his products are greatly discounted and shipped free.

  37. Cristi says:

    I currently take an all in one shake with the “wrong” kind of vitamin E, but I do love it otherwise. I was looking at the Calton “Nutrience” information online, and it has the tocopherols AND the tocotrienols. I wonder if this is a step up or not…thoughts?

    1. When alpha-tocopherols are present in a tocopherol-tocotrienol mixture at concentrations of 10% and more, it is likely that alpha-tocopherol will interfere with the functions and benefits of tocotrienols. It is therefore preferable to take tocotrienols at least 6 hours apart from alpha-tocopherol.

  38. Robert Allen says:

    I use Thorne AM/PM Elite and I love it. I would also be very happy if they would look at this information and if proven true reformulate. Right now I am not sure how to find a multi that doesn’t have some vitamin E in it.

    1. To garner the benefits of tocotrienols, we recommend taking them at least six hours apart from alpha-tocopherol, or any multi-vitamin containing alpha-tocopherol.

  39. ben says:

    Assuming there’s not enough transport-proteins, how exactly do alpha-tocopherol become pro-oxidant?

    How do tocotrienols get to the site of action?

    Of the 90% Vitamin E found in the cell wall, what form is it in? Why aren’t animal sources usually named as high sources of Vitamin E?

    Is it known if the Tocotrienol found in cancer cells is fueling or slowing its growth?

    Finally, regarding how statins are indiscriminate in lowering cholesterol, including CoQ10 and if one is trying to manage their lipid panel, the protocol should be: exercise/diet, Vitamin E (Annatto), and if Statins, then take with GG… is there any danger in getting more than the 15mg of Vitamin E from food in a healthy person?

    1. In comparison studies, when delta-tocotrienol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol, and other mixtures were compared for their ability to prevent oxidation of bulk omega-3 oils and structured lipids, alpha-tocopherol was much more prone to pro-oxidation. The reason for this appears to be the number of methyl groups in the chromanol head region of the molecule: Both delta-tocotrienol and –tocopherol contain one methyl group, whereas alpha-tocopherol contains three methyl groups.

      As part of the vitamin E family, tocotrienols are fat-soluble, and are hence absorbed in a similar fashion as fats from food in the gut, aided by bile salts. These vitamin Es are mixed into large emulsified particles (1,000um) called chylomicrons that absorb through the gut. These particles that carry both tocopherols and tocotrienols travel in the lymph and blood. These lipoproteins act as shuttles, transporting cholesterol and lipid nutrients alike to organs including the liver. Whereas tocotrienols progressively deposit into cells as larger lipoproteins move to smaller ones, alpha-tocopherol progressively remains in the LDL and returns to the liver or gets repackaged into LDL in the liver. Being particularly bioavailable to organs, tocotrienol has been shown to deposit in lipid-rich organs, including the brain, spleen, lung, kidney, and heart, with preference in the adipose, skin, and heart prior to hepatic circulation. Conversely, alpha-tocopherol is particularly bioavailable to the liver and blood after hepatic circulation.

      In older studies vitamin E in cell walls and lipids was found to be mostly in the form of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol, which is not surprising, since these isomers are highest in the diet and individuals had no source of tocotrienols at the time. More recent studies in tocotrienol-supplemented individuals have clearly shown tocotrienols to deposit in major organs and tissues. Vitamin E is synthesized by plants, whereas animals do not have a mechanism to for biosynthesis of E. Certain seeds, nuts, and plant oils are particularly good sources of vitamin E. Some animal products do contain vitamin E, which is due to the diet these animals consumed, and the vitamin E depositing in their fats and organs.

      Tocotrienol was found to induce apoptosis in cancer cells, while bringing no harm to healthy cells. Moreover, tocotrienol was found to have antiangiogenic properties. Angiogenesis is a process tumors use to grow new blood vessels and scavenge nutrients from the host. Tocotrienol – through antiangiogenesis – essentially “starves” the tumor.

      15mg, even if it is taken as alpha-tocopherol and all at the same time along with a 150mg dose of tocotrienols, would not be much of a problem, as it is 10% of the total tocopherols and tocotrienols. Interference issues with alpha-tocopherol were noted when alpha-tocopherol was ~10% and more. Further, vitamin E obtained from the American diet is mostly in the form of gamma-tocopherol, with alpha-tocopherol contributing a much smaller percent of the 15g.

  40. Tina Story says:

    Fascinating podcast ESPECIALLY as I am dealing with breast cancer and have been taking Vitamin E to prepare for surgery, but of course it’s mixed tocopherols! :( I see that DFH has a tocotrienol product with cumin seed oil (Annatto-Synergy) but Dr. Tan hadn’t discussed the synergistic effects or why specifically the cumin seed oil was added. Would you be able to get more information on this? For instance, in what cases would the Synergy product be better?

    1. There's a lot of good research that shows cumin as an effective anti-inflammatory.

    2. Not unlike tocotrienols, black cumin seed oil has been shown to cause apoptosis of several cancer cell lines, so there may be a synergistic benefit in taking the tocotrienols along with the black cumin seed oil. Black cumin seed oil’s primary active compound – thymoquinone – was also shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This synergism has not yet been confirmed in clinical trials, but tocotrienols from annatto on their own have shown great success in clinical trials.

  41. Nathan Grant says:

    If Thorne upgraded their multi vitamin based on this information, I would be stoked

    1. Jonathan Lizotte says:

      That’s a palm tocotrienol/tocopherol product with 400 IU of alpha tocopherol! I would never put that in my body. AC Grace is a good company that also sells an annatto tocotrienol without any tocopherol. A much better choice.

  42. Fabien Rabanal says:

    Great podcast, Ben. Just a quick question on astaxanthin, Dr Tan says it’s a very powerful antioxidant that oxidizes lipid fats. In your opinion, or Dr Tan’s opinion, is supplementing with astaxanthin beneficial and if so, can one supplement using both astaxanthin and toco trienol (derived from the annatto plant) beneficial for optimal health given one lives an overall healthy lifestyle. Thanks

    1. Dr. Barrie Tan says:

      Astaxanthin and tocotrienols are a great combo antioxidant, since they have different oxidation targets: Tocotrienol is excellent at protecting from lipid oxidation, whereas astaxanthin has very high singlet oxygen quenching activity. The two compounds can work synergistically.

      1. Tetsuo says:

        If I coat my wild caught salmon with 100 % annatto seasoning and your saying it’s antioxidant would my body have trouble digesting the fish?

    2. Tetsuo says:

      When taking 300 ml of tocotrienals from annatto how much percentage of that is taken from the small intestine? And what enzyme helps it break it down and what protein transport takes it to the blood so and the end of all the process how much do you actually absorb?

  43. Aly Richards says:

    This is a marvellous talk and very useful. However when following the link for the Designs for Health Annatto-E, this can only be prescribe by a health care professional, you can’t order it as a lay person, it is also not available through their amazon shop and I can’t get it in the UK. Do you know of any alternative suppliers?

    1. It’s available in the US on Amazon but at 15% higher price than through the link in the shownotes… It is not yet available in the UK. I don't currently have any alternative suppliers.

    2. Dr. Barrie Tan says:

      A variety of links can be found through https://americanrivernutrition.com/our-customers. In the UK, DeltaGold is available through https://www.metabolics.com/vitamin-e-tocotrienols.html

      1. Qasim says:

        Also available TocoPure D&G High Potency Tocotrienols at Amritanutrition but I ordered the last one.

    3. Qasim says:

      It will be stocked by InvivoClinical soon, but they haven’t got any stock yet- needs to be ordered through a practitioner however.

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