Antioxidation and Anti-ageing

Antioxidants play a role in keeping our bodies healthy by protecting our cells from the adverse effects of free radicals. Free radicals such as reactive oxygen species are normally produced in the body as by-products of bodily functions and metabolic processes. When free radicals are generated excessively by stress, cigarette smoke and certain diets beyond the ability of the body’s level of antioxidation capacity to cope with, they may damage cell’s DNA, proteins and lipid (fat). [1]

Cells are covered by a lipid membrane layer which is prone to free radical damage through lipid peroxidation that can cause adverse cellular effects. [2]

Tocotrienol: Stellar lipid antioxidation properties

Tocotrienol and tocopherol are well-known lipid antioxidants that constitute the Vitamin E family. As compared to tocopherols, tocotrienols have 40 to 60 times more powerful antioxidation properties in the cellular systems. Lester Packer, one of the foremost antioxidant researchers from the University of California Berkeley, explains that the higher antioxidant activity of tocotrienol than tocopherol results from the following:

  • · More uniform distribution in membrane bilayer
  • · Stronger disordering of membrane lipids
  • · More effective collision with radicals
  • · Greater recycling activity of chromanoxyl radical
  • · Recycling activity correlates with inhibition of lipid peroxidation [3]
  • Palm tocotrienol significantly alleviates oxidative stress not only by its potent free radical scavenging properties but also by interacting directly and strongly with antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase. [5]

Tocotrienol: Promising anti-ageing effects

Unlike normal skin ageing, photo-ageing results from constant and prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. UV radiation increases the production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species in different layers of the skin causing cellular damage which hastens the ageing process and increases the risk for skin cancer. Vitamin E is one of the most widely used ingredients in cosmetic and skin products for its antioxidant properties which counteract the free radicals formed from sun exposure. Tocotrienol when applied topically is more easily absorbed in the skin with its affinity for certain skin layers. [4]

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 64 human subjects aged 37-78 years old showed a significant reduction of DNA damage in their blood samples after 3 months of 160 mg daily dose of palm tocotrienols. The positive effects continued to the end of the trial at 6 months [5]. Results from these studies show that tocotrienols have the potential for maintaining cellular health.

Tocotrienol delayed cellular ageing in human diploid fibroblasts as shown by the elongated telomere length, decreased levels of damaged DNA and progression of cell cycle to senescent phase. Telomere length is associated with cellular ageing: the shorter the telomere, the older the cell. [6]


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1.         Khan N, AF Mukhtar H. Cancer chemoprevention through dietary antioxidants: progress and promise. Antioxid Redox Signal, 2008;10(3):475-510.

2.         Devasagayam TP TJ, Boloor KK, Sane KS, Ghaskadbi SS and Lele RD: Free radicals and antioxidants in human health: current status and future prospects. J Assoc  Physicians India, 2004;52:794-804.

3.         Packer L, SU Weber and G Rimbach. Molecular aspects of alpha-tocotrienol antioxidant action and cell signalling. J Nutr 2001;131(2):369S-73S.

4.         Yoshida Y, E Niki, and N Noguchi. Comparative study on the action of tocopherols and tocotrienols as antioxidant: chemical and physical effects. Chem Phys Lipids, 2003;123(1):63-75.

5.         Chin SF, et al. Reduction of DNA damage in older healthy adults by Tri E Tocotrienol supplementation. Nutrition, 2008;24(1):1-10.

6.         Makpol S. et al. Gamma-Tocotrienol prevents oxidative stress-induced telomere shortening in human fibroblasts derived from different aged individuals. Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2010;3(1):35-43.