Professor Dr Ammu K Radhakrishnan Professor of Pathology (Immunology), International Medical University
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a lifelong condition that can cause increasing degrees of pain and inflammation to the joints, making it increasingly difficult for the RA patients to move. It is said to be an autoimmune disease, because the body’s immune system attacking healthy tissues of the joints, having mistaken these cells to be ‘enemies’. This condition affects about 1-1.5% of people worldwide.
In a past issue, we have learned that tocotrienols, a member of the vitamin E family, may have beneficial properties on the immune system. Can it, then, have similar beneficial effects on patients with RA, whose condition is caused by their immune system?
It is very possible, according to researcher Professor Dr Ammu K Radhakrishnan. While studies on tocotrienols in this area are still in a relatively early stage (clinical trials on humans have yet to be performed), there have been some promising results.
There are four types of tocotrienols; alpha (α), beta (β), delta (δ) and gamma (γ). Of these four, the δ and γ forms have been found to have the strongest beneficial properties; hence considerable research has been focused on these two forms.
The Effects of δ-Tocotrienol
Prof Ammu collaborated with researchers from Malaysia and Australia in this research. In this research, rats with arthritis were fed daily with either δ-tocotrienol or glucosamine (a protein given to ease joint pains), in addition to their normal food pellets. Control rates were fed ordinary food pellets.
- Rats fed with δ-tocotrienol and glucosamine both showed improvement; almost all of them regained the ability to move around freely.
- These rats also showed less severe changes in their joint structures compared to the control rats. There was a marked reduction in inflammation and oedema.
- Rats given δ-tocotrienol showed significantly better reduction in joint swelling and redness compared to those given glucosamine.
How about γ-Tocotrienols?
In another RA study, Prof Ammu and co-researchers from both Malaysia and Australia, found that:
- There was significant reduction in joint inflammation, swelling, redness and deformity among arthritic rats fed with γ-tocotrienol.
- Arthritic rats fed with γ-tocotrienol showed significant reversal in joint changes and there was only moderate inflammation and significantly less narrowing of the joint space. Less narrowing of joint space means a slower rate of cartilage loss, and therefore, less pain and difficulty during movement.
As these two research suggested, both δ- and γ-tocotrienols may be effective, long-term anti-inflammatory agents to reduce the serious symptoms of RA.
Tocotrienol supplements are currently available in the market. Many of them are formulated from one of the richest sources of tocotrienols, palm oil, which isof courseone of Malaysia’s primary agricultural products. You can ask your pharmacist for more information.
Haleagrahara, N., et al. (2014). Therapeutic efficacy of vitamin E δ-tocotrienol in collagen-induced rat model of arthritis.Biomed Res Int.:539540.
Radhakrishnan, A., et al. (2014). Effect of γ-tocotrienol in counteracting oxidative stress and joint damage in collagen-induced arthritis in rats.Exp Ther Med.;7(5):1408-1414.
Mayo Clinic. Rheumatoid arthritis. Retrieved on July 11, 2016 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/home/ovc-20197388