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Tocotrienols, members of the vitamin E family, are natural compounds found in a number of vegetable oils, wheat germ, barley, and certain types of nuts and grains. Like tocopherols, tocotrienols are also of four types viz. alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Unlike tocopherols, tocotrienols are unsaturated and possess an isoprenoid side chain. Tocopherols are lipophilic in nature and are found in association with lipoproteins, fat deposits and cellular membranes and protect the polyunsaturated fatty acids from peroxidation reactions. The unsaturated chain of tocotrienol allows an efficient penetration into tissues that have saturated fatty layers such as the brain and liver. Recent mechanistic studies indicate that other forms of vitamin E, such as γ-tocopherol, δ-tocopherol, and γ-tocotrienol, have unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are superior to those of α-tocopherol against chronic diseases. These forms scavenge reactive nitrogen species, inhibit cyclooxygenase- and 5-lipoxygenase-catalyzed eicosanoids and suppress proinflammatory signalling, such as NF-κB and STAT. The animal and human studies show tocotrienols may be useful against inflammation-associated diseases. Many of the functions of tocotrienols are related to its antioxidant properties and its varied effects are due to it behaving as a signalling molecule. Tocotrienols exhibit biological activities that are also exhibited by tocopherols, such as neuroprotective, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering properties. Hence, effort has been made to compile the different functions and properties of tocotrienols in experimental model systems and humans. This article constitutes an in-depth review of the pharmacology, metabolism, toxicology and biosafety aspects of tocotrienols. Tocotrienols are detectable at appreciable levels in the plasma after supplementations. However, there is inadequate data on the plasma concentrations of tocotrienols that are sufficient to demonstrate significant physiological effect and biodistribution studies show their accumulation in vital organs of the body. Considering the wide range of benefits that tocotrienols possesses against some common human ailments and having a promising potential, the experimental analysis accounts for about a small fraction of all vitamin E research. The current state of knowledge deserves further investigation into this lesser known form of vitamin E.
Ahsan, H., Ahad, A., Iqbal, J., & Siddiqui, W. A. (2014). Pharmacological potential of tocotrienols: A review. Nutrition and Metabolism. BioMed Central Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-11-52