Vitamin E’s Most Potent Family Member

What are Tocotrienols?

Modern times with the modern stressors have made us more vulnerable to the cumulative effects of oxidative stress. Cardiovascular disease is a major health concern worldwide and is the number one cause of death globally. Maintaining heart health is crucial for overall well-being and quality of life, and many individuals seek out natural, dietary approaches to support their cardiovascular health.

One such ingredient that has gained attention for its potential cardiovascular benefits is a fat-soluble nutrient called a tocotrienol. Tocotrienols are a special kind of vitamin E, (known as a vitamer) that also supports cell membrane health and modulates inflammation. There are four types of tocotrienols - alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. However, it is the delta fraction, called delta-tocotrienol, the most significant properties for cardiovascular and circulatory health.

Recent studies on tocotrienols demonstrate important heart healthy benefits including cell membrane protection, supporting a healthy inflammation response, and reducing oxidative damage from free radicals.

Different from Tocopherols:

The vitamin E family includes tocopherols and tocotrienols. Discovered in 1922, vitamin E has traditionally been associated with only the tocopherols. Tocopherols are found in most vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains. Tocotrienols were not discovered until 1986, when it was assessed that tocotrienols have 40-60 times more antioxidant capacity than tocopherols and possessed potent inflammation relief. A property that tocopherols do not offer comparatively. In fact, research shows that tocopherols actually get in the way of tocotrienols' ability to slow down cholesterol production. This is also what makes the annatto seed-derived tocotrienols the most cardioprotective of all tocotrienols. But more about annatto later!

Where to Find Tocotrienols:

If you want to add more tocotrienols to your diet, you can eat foods that contain them or take supplements.

Some foods that are naturally high in tocotrienols include:

  • Palm oil: Palm oil is one of the richest natural sources of tocotrienols. It contains a high concentration of alpha-tocotrienol, which is the most active form of tocotrienol.
  • Rice bran: Rice bran is another good source of tocotrienols. It contains a balanced mix of all four forms of tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta).
  • Barley: Barley is a good source of gamma-tocotrienol, which is the second most active form of tocotrienol after alpha-tocotrienol.
  • Wheat germ: Wheat germ is a good source of alpha-tocotrienol, and a moderate source of gamma-tocotrienol.
  • Nuts: Nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans, are also good sources of tocotrienols.
  • Annatto seed: Annatto seed is 90% delta and 10% gamma tocotrienols and contains 0% tocopherols. Research indicates that delta-tocotrienols demonstrate the most significant properties for cardiovascular and circulatory health.

It's worth noting that the tocotrienol content in foods can vary depending on factors such as the variety of the food, the growing conditions, and the processing methods used. Eating a diverse diet containing a variety of foods that are naturally high in tocotrienols is the best way to ensure that you are getting enough of this important nutrient.

What is special about Annatto Seed?

Annatto seeds are not like the other sources of tocotrienols, which are often mixed in with a few tocopherols. Tocopherols contain 0% tocopherols, 10% gamma-tocotrienols and 90% delta-tocotrienol which possesses the most bioactive form of vitamin E. Studies have shown that annatto seed tocotrienols have potent antioxidant properties and can help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Compared to tocopherols, tocotrienols are 20-50% more effective at lowering C-reactive protein (CRP), a critical biomarker for detecting levels of inflammation within the body, as well as unhealthy cholesterol levels and reducing stiffness of blood vessels. Research also demonstrates that tocotrienols promote healthy levels of coenzyme Q10 in the blood.

Tocotrienols Tones the Circulatory System

Did you know that antioxidant therapy has been proposed as a potential intervention that may reduce the incidence of heart failure. Studies have found that annatto seed tocotrienols can have a beneficial effect on heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, improving blood flow, and reducing oxidative stress by protecting cell membranes. Tocotrienols have been well established in their ability to support healthy cholesterol levels as well as inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) levels.

Other studies have found that tocotrienols may have a protective effect on the brain, helping to reduce the risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. It's important to note that clinical research on annatto seed tocotrienols and their health benefits is ongoing, and more studies are needed to fully understand their effects. Nevertheless, the initial findings are encouraging and suggest that tocotrienols derived from annatto seeds may have potential health benefits.

Researchers have been studying the effects of tocotrienols on heart health and have found many positive characteristics. Tocotrienols can:

  1. Support a healthy heart by giving antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
  2. Help keep cholesterol levels healthy.
  3. Support healthy blood pressure level.

There have been many studies done on delta-tocotrienols and heart health, and they are showing great results. But more research is needed to know for sure how tocotrienols can help our hearts.

Tocotrienols Boost Antioxidant Protection and More!

Although normal metabolic processes of the body can contribute to certain amounts of free radicals, the body may be exposed to an excess production of free radicals caused by ongoing exposure to pollutants, toxins, and other stressful factors. High levels of free radicals in the body can damage cells and break down their membranes, which is why the remarkable antioxidant capability of tocotrienols is so valuable.

In summary, delta-tocotrienols are a less common, but more potent form of Vitamin E with potential whole-health benefits by improving the resilience of all cell membranes. for heart, skin, brain, and anti-inflammatory properties. Adding foods rich in tocotrienols, or supplements containing them, in your diet could boost your overall health. As always talk to your doctor before trying a new supplement to see what’s right for you!


Jenny Perez is an herbal educator, researcher, and writer who has been immersed in the field of nutrition and botanical medicine for more than 20 years. Jenny has created curriculum, content, and educational materials for Quantum Nutrition Labs, Premier Research Labs, the American Botanical Council, and Bastyr University’s Botanical Medicine Department where she was Adjunct Faculty, Herb Garden Manager, and Director of the Holistic Landscape Design certificate program.