Natural vitamin E alpha-tocotrienol: retention in vital organs in response to long-term oral supplementation and withdrawal

Free Radic Res. 2006 Jul;40(7):763-71. doi: 10.1080/10715760600672491.


The natural vitamin E tocotrienol (TCT) possesses biological properties not shared by tocopherols (TCP). Nanomolar alpha-TCT, not alpha-TCP, is potently neuroprotective (JBC 275:13049; 278:43508; Stroke 36:2258). The report that the affinity of TTP to bind (alpha-TCT is an order of magnitude lower than that for alpha-TCP questions the bioavailability of orally taken TCT to tissues. Oral supplementation of TCT for 3 years in nine generations of female and male rat was studied. Ten vital organs were examined. To gain insight into the turnover of alpha-TCT in tissues, a subset of supplemented rats was moved to vitamin E deficient diet for 7 weeks. Orally supplemented alpha-TCT was delivered to all vital organs including the brain and spinal cord in significant amounts. In organs such as the skin, adipose and gonads the maximum level of alpha-TCT achieved in response to supplementation was folds higher than baseline values of alpha-TCP in rats maintained on laboratory chow. Females had higher levels of alpha-TCT compared to matched tissues of corresponding males. To gain insight into how quickly alpha-TCT is metabolized in the tissues, washout of alpha-TCT from vital organs was examined. alpha-TCT accumulated in vital organs over more than 2 years was almost completely lost in less than 2 months when the supplementation was stopped. This is in sharp contrast with findings related to alpha-TCP retention. The ability of long-term oral supplementation to maintain and elevate alpha-TCT levels in vital organs together with the rapid elimination of the intact vitamin from all organs studied underscores the need for continuous oral supplementation of TCT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Gonads / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Neuroprotective Agents / blood
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tocotrienols / administration & dosage*
  • Tocotrienols / blood
  • Tocotrienols / pharmacokinetics*
  • alpha-Tocopherol / administration & dosage
  • alpha-Tocopherol / pharmacokinetics


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Tocotrienols
  • alpha-Tocopherol