Lipidaemic effects of tocotrienols, tocopherols and squalene: studies in the hamster

Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 1997 Mar;6(1):36-40.


Syrian Golden hamsters have been widely used as a experimental model for the investigation of the aetiology and development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. The responses of the hamster to dietary fat manipulations are in many ways similar to that observed in humans. The lipidaemic effect of a tocotrienol rich fraction (TRF) from palm oil on human trials has not been consistent. In this study, the cholesterolaemic effect of tocotrienols and tocopherols were differentiated by using pure tocotrienols (that were isolated from palm oil fatty acid distillate) and pure commercial tocopherols and squalene. A palm oil triacylglycerol fraction (POTG), free of all unsaponifiable matter, was used as the dietary fat in different feeding experiments. Tocotrienols added at 162 ppm to POTG (POTG-T3L) significantly (p<0.05) lowered serum total cholesterol (TC) level as compared to that of the POTG group; but the serum LDL-C , HDL-C and TG levels of the POTG-T3L group were not significantly lower than that of the POTG group (P>0.05). Increasing the level of tocotrienol supplementation to the diet (POTG-T3H) appeared to raise rather then reduce the serum TC, LDL-C and HDL-C levels as compared to that of POTG-T3L group. This observation that lower level of tocotrienol supplementation appeared to exhibit stronger hypocholesterolaemic effect than a higher level of tocotrienol supplementation is interesting; but its explanation is not yet forthcoming. When tocopherols were supplemented at 72 ppm to the POTG diet it was observed that the serum TC, LDL-C and HDL-C levels were all somewhat increased when compared to that of the POTG group. These results suggest that tocotrienols and tocopherols may have opposite cholesterolaemic effects in the hamster, and further experiments need to clarify the mode of action of these vitamin E isomers. In our second series of experiments the cholesterolaemic effects of tocotrienols and tocopherols were studied in the presence of squalene, a key intermediate in the cholesterol synthesis pathway and a controversial cholesterol lowering agent. Squalene added to the diet at 0.1% level significantly lowered (p<0.05) serum TC level when compared to that of the POTG group. The LDL-C, HDL-C and TG levels appeared to be lowered by the squalene supplementation also but the differences between the POTG-SQ and POTG groups were not statistically significant (P>0.05). When tocotrienols or tocopherols were added to the squalene-containing POTG diets, the serum TC and LDL-C levels were further reduced (p<0.01) when compared to that of the POTG and POTG-SQ groups. The HDL-C and TG levels were not affected by tocotrienol or tocopherol supplementation in the presence of squalene. These results indicate that in the presence of tocotrienols and squalene POTG exhibit hypocholesterolaemic action whereas tocopherols may have a hypercholesterolaemic effect in the hamster.