d-Alpha-tocopherol (2R,4’R,8’R-Alpha-tocopherol) and d-alpha-tocotrienol are two vitamin E constituents having the same aromatic chromanol “head” but differing in their hydrocarbon “tail”: tocopherol with a saturated and toctrienol with an unsaturated isoprenoid chain. d-Alpha-tocopherol has the highest vitamin E activity, while d-alpha-tocotrienol manifests only about 30% of this activity. Since vitamin E is considered to be physiologically the most important lipid-soluble chain-breaking antioxidant of membranes, we studied alpha-tocotrienol as compared to alpha-tocopherol under conditions which are important for their antioxidant function. d-Alpha-tocotrienol possesses 40-60 times higher antioxidant activity against (Fe2+ + ascorbate)- and (Fe2+ + NADPH)-induced lipid peroxidation in rat liver microsomal membranes and 6.5 times better protection of cytochrome P-450 against oxidative damage than d-alpha-tocopherol. To clarify the mechanisms responsible for the much higher antioxidant potency of d-alpha-tocotrienol compared to d-alpha-tocopherol, ESR studies were performed of recycling efficiency of the chromanols from their chromanoxyl radicals. 1H-NMR measurements of lipid molecular mobility in liposomes containing chromanols, and fluorescence measurements which reveal the uniformity of distribution (clusterizations) of chromanols in the lipid bilayer. From the results, we concluded that this higher antioxidant potency of d-alpha-tocotrienol is due to the combined effects of three properties exhibited by d-alpha-tocotrienol as compared to d-alpha-tocopherol: (i) its higher recycling efficiency from chromanoxyl radicals, (ii) its more uniform distribution in membrane bilayer, and (iii) its stronger disordering of membrane lipids which makes interaction of chromanols with lipid radicals more efficient. The data presented show that there is a considerable discrepancy between the relative in vitro antioxidant activity of d-alpha-tocopherol and d-alpha-tocotrienol with the conventional bioassays of their vitamin activity.
Female Sprague-Dawley rats, 50 days of age, were treated with a single dose of 5 mg of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene intragastrically. 3 days after carcinogen treatment, the rats were put on semisynthetic diets containing 20% by weight of corn oil (CO), soybean oil (SBO), crude palm oil (CPO), refined, bleached, deodorized palm oil (RBD PO) and metabisulfite-treated palm oil (MCPO) for 5 months. During the course of experiments, rats fed on different dietary fats had similar rate of growth. Rats fed 20% CO or SBO diet have higher tumor incidence than rats fed on palm oil (PO) diets; however differences of mean tumor latency periods among the groups were not statistically significant. At autopsy, rats fed on high CO or SBO diets had significantly more tumors than rats fed on the three PO diets. Our results showed that high PO diets did not promote chemically induced mammary tumorigenesis in female rats when compared to high CO or SBO diets. CO and SBO differ greatly from the palm oils in their contents of tocopherols, tocotrienols, and carotenes. But further experiments would be required to determine whether the observed differences in tumor incidence and tumor numbers were due to the differences in these minor components or due to the unique triglyceride structure of the palm oils. Analysis of the fatty acid profiles of plasma total lipids of tumor-bearing rats and of the tumor total lipids showed that, with the exception of arachidonic acid, the fatty acid profiles reflect the nature of the dietary fats. At autopsy, there were no differences in the plasma total cholesterol contents among rats fed on different dietary fats, but rats fed on palm oil diets had a significantly higher plasma triglyceride level than that of rats fed CO or SBO diets. As for the tumor lipids, there were no significant differences in the triglyceride, diglyceride, and phospholipid levels when the CO or SBO groups were compared to the palm oil groups.