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Tocotrienols: A Family of Molecules with Specific Biological Activities

Council for Agricultural Research and Economics, Research Centre for Food and Nutrition (CREA-AN) via Ardeatina 546, 00178 Rome, Italy
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Antioxidants 2017, 6(4), 93;
Received: 24 October 2017 / Revised: 8 November 2017 / Accepted: 16 November 2017 / Published: 18 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Vitamin E)
PDF [802 KB, uploaded 18 November 2017]


Vitamin E is a generic term frequently used to group together eight different molecules, namely: α-, β-, γ- and δ-tocopherol and the corresponding tocotrienols. The term tocopherol and eventually Vitamin E and its related activity was originally based on the capacity of countering foetal re-absorption in deficient rodents or the development of encephalomalacia in chickens. In humans, Vitamin E activity is generally considered to be solely related to the antioxidant properties of the tocolic chemical structure. In recent years, several reports have shown that specific activities exist for each different tocotrienol form. In this short review, tocotrienol ability to inhibit cancer cell growth and induce apoptosis thanks to specific mechanisms, not shared by tocopherols, such as the binding to Estrogen Receptor-β (ERβ) and the triggering of endoplasmic reticulum (EndoR) stress will be described. The neuroprotective activity will also be presented and discussed. We propose that available studies strongly indicate that specific forms of tocotrienols have a distinct mechanism and biological activity, significantly different from tocopherol and more specifically from α-tocopherol. We therefore suggest not pooling them together within the broad term “Vitamin E” on solely the basis of their putative antioxidant properties. This option implies obvious consequences in the assessment of dietary Vitamin E adequacy and, probably more importantly, on the possibility of evaluating a separate biological variable, determinant in the relationship between diet and health. View Full-Text
Keywords: tocopherols; tocotrienols; estrogen receptors; endoplasmic reticulum stress; neuroprotection tocopherols; tocotrienols; estrogen receptors; endoplasmic reticulum stress; neuroprotection

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Comitato, R.; Ambra, R.; Virgili, F. Tocotrienols: A Family of Molecules with Specific Biological Activities. Antioxidants 2017, 6, 93.

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