Coconut has the highest about of alpha-tocotrienol.
Tapakon / Pixabay – Coconut has the highest about of alpha-tocotrienol.

Nearly twenty years ago, studies showed that vitamin E protected some patients’ brains after strokes.  Ohio State University discovered that alpha-tocotrienol is responsible for stopping or reducing an enzyme from releasing fatty acids that eventually kill the neurons in your brain.  All tests to date have been done with animals and laboratory cell models.

Vitamin E is really two distinct chemical classes with a total of eight different chemicals.  One class is called tocotrienol and the other is tocopherol.  Each class has four different chemicals named alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.  Tocopherols are the most common.

Each of the eight different chemicals that make up vitamin E has a distinct function.  Recent testing has shown that alpha-tocotrienol can reduce damage done by stroke and possibly even prevent strokes in humans.

A stroke typically happens when a blood vessel in your brain bursts or when a blood clot enters your brain and cuts off blood circulation to your brain.  Symptoms include sudden numbness or paralysis on one side, sudden severe headaches, sudden vision changes, inability to understand or speak.  Strokes can be initiated by hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

When a stroke occurs, the neurotransmitter glutamate is released.  Glutamate is important and beneficial in your memory and learning processes.  However, glutamate is released in large amounts during a stroke.  Glutamate triggers a number of chemical processes that result in the symptoms associated with stroke victims.

Arachidonic acid (AA) is a fatty acid present in your brain.  AA helps to maintain the stability of cell membranes under normal conditions.  AA undergoes a chemical change and becomes toxic in the presence of excess glutamate.  Your neurons, brain cells, are destroyed by the increased toxicity of the modified AA.

Alpha-tocotrienol specifically pursues the enzyme called cytosolic calcium-dependent phospholipase A2 (cPLA2 or A2).  A2 is activated when you have a stroke.  Alpha-tocotrienol stops the enzyme from activating and protects your brain’s neurons from destruction.  The really interesting thing is that it takes very, very little alpha-tocotrienol to be effective – 250 nanomolar dose.  The normal amount of alpha-tocotrienol available through vitamin E supplements is usually ten times this amount.

Ensure you verify that all eight forms of vitamin E are present in the vitamin E supplement you buy if your diet does not provide you with adequate amounts of vitamin E on a daily basis.  Alpha-tocotrienol has been shown in laboratory tests to reduce the release of AA by 60% when excess glutamate is present.  Brain cells pretreated with alpha-tocotrienol prior to a stroke have a four-fold increase in survival when excess glutamate is present.

The most common form of vitamin E found in supplements is alpha-tocopherol, not alpha-tocotrienol.  More alpha-tocopherol is found in European food compared to American food.  The most common form of vitamin E in the American diet is gamma-tocopherol.

The typical American diet does not contain all forms of vitamin E.  The American diet lacks many tocotrienols.  However, the typical Southeast Asian diet does contain these nutrients. Tocotrienols are usually found in rice bran oil, barley, wheat germ, and oats.

The highest concentration of alpha-tocotrienol was found in coconut (0.79 mg/100 g). Coconut also had 0.18 mg of gamma-tocotrienols per 100 grams. Second place goes to frozen and blanched corn (0.38 mg/100 g). Third place for alpha-tocotrienols goes to cranberry (0.33 mg/100 g)

I buy mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols when looking for a vitamin E supplement. There is not a single food source that contains all eight compounds that make up vitamin E.

One Response

  1. Very informative post, Red! I was aware that vitamins are often a group of compounds rather than a single substance, but I really learned a lot about vitamin E. I was pleased to see corn rated well for tocotrienols. Corn has been disparaged by certain bloggers recently. It’s nice to have yet another reason to eat this vegetable 🙂

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