Definition of Tocotrienol
Tocotrienol belongs to the vitamin E family.
Vitamin E is one of the most important phytonutrients in edible oils. It consists of eight naturally occurring isoforms, a family of tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta) homologues.
All the eight forms share some important traits:
- The head, or chroman ring in technical term
- The tail, which is called the phytyl tail for tocopherols, but called isoprenoid tail for tocotrienols
- The active group on the head of the molecule, which is called the hydroxy group
The chroman ring has chemical groups which are called methyl groups attached to it. Alpha has all three available sites filled while beta and gamma have two methyl groups but in different positions. Whereas delta has only one.
The tocotrienol tail has three double bonds while the tocopherol tail has none. In the chemical parlance, bonds are the forces that keep atoms together. A single bond means the atoms share two electrons, a double bond means they share four electrons.
The structural name for alpha-tocopherol is 2,5,7,8-tetramethyl-2-(4′,8′,12′-trimethyltridecyl)-6-chromanol.
The structural name for alpha-tocotrienol is 2,5,7,8-tetramethyl-2-(4′,8′,12′-trimethyltrideca-3′,7′,11′-trienyl)-6- chromanol.
Sources of Tocotrienol
Vitamin E is commonly found in plant and seed oils. However, only crude palm oil extracted from the fruits of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is the richest source for full spectrum tocotrienols (up to 800 mg/kg).
Other common sources of tocotrienols are
Table showing vitamin E content (Tocopherols and Tocotrienols) in various plant sources
Tocotrienols From Normal Diet Alone
Since tocotrienols only occur at very low levels in nature (with the highest concentration found in palm oil), it is virtually impossible to attain the amount of tocotrienols that show beneficial effects from normal diet alone. For example, one would need to consume a cup of palm olein (cooking oil) a day to get the level of tocotrienol required for effectiveness as described in most studies.