Two-year study finds that vitamin E from palm oil helps to protect brain’s white matter


The results of a two-year human clinical study have been published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke. The results show that vitamin E tocotrienols derived from Malaysian palm oil may support white matter health by weakening the progression of white matter lesions. 

This is the first study that provides solid evidence of tocotrienols’ neuroprotective benefits in humans, according to a press release.

“Injury to the brain’s white matter has been reported to be the major cause of functional disability in cerebrovascular disease,” confirmed researcher Yuen Kah Hay, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.

Previous animal studies have reported that vitamin E tocotrienols derived from palm oil are capable of preventing damage to white matter during a stroke, and improved circulation to the damaged part of the brain after a stroke.

“This new study is very significant,” comments Kalyana Sundram (Food Technology and Nutrition Unit, Malaysian Palm Oil Board, Selangor, Malaysia and the faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) a member of the research team. “Many compounds have been shown to display neuroprotective effects in animal models of stroke. But they failed in human clinical trials. This may be because the human brain has so much more white matter (about 50%) than rats (about 10%), for example.”

In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, tocotrienol researchers at the University Science Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia, followed 121 volunteers for two years. Each volunteer underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm the presence of white matter lesions. One group received 200mg of mixed tocotrienols (available in the USA as Tocovid SupraBio) twice daily for two years, while the others received a placebo. All volunteers were instructed to maintain their regular diets and physical activity levels. MRI was performed at entry into the study (baseline), and then repeated after one year and again after two years.

There was no statistical difference after the first year. At two years of supplementation, the mean white matter lesion volume of the placebo group increased whereas those who received palm tocotrienols remained unchanged. The principal researcher concluded that supplementation with palm tocotrienols (Tocomin SupraBio) attenuates the progression of white matter lesions.

This study shows that taking palm-derived tocotrienols daily may be an easy way to be proactive about your brain health, especially for patients at high risk of stroke, it says in the press release.