Malaysian Palm Oil Nutrition Week – Day 1

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

I’m excited to be attending and speaking at the Palm Oil Nutrition Week scientific conference in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia this week. The first few days will be devoted to scientific presentations about the health benefits of phytonutrients from red palm fruit, including tocotrienols, carotenoids, and flavonoids. I will be delivering a presentation tomorrow about the role of these phytonutrients in the diets of athletes and the relationship between phytonutrients and mental/physical performance.


During the last few days of my trip, I will be visiting the Malaysian jungle to view some of the sustainable farming and harvesting practices that the Malaysian government has instituted to protect the supply and quality of the red palm fruit as a source of healthy phytonutrients.


Here are some of the highlights from a few of the scientific presentations today (Day 1 of the 3-day scientific program):


Just listened to Dr. Chandan Sen from Ohio State University, who talked about how palm tocotrienols are protective against stroke – and generally neuroprotective at very low levels (when given either before or after challenges). The tocotrienols seem to work by several different mechanisms (at least 5 different mechanisms including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects such as 12-lipooxygenase) – and are also protective for the liver in end-stage liver disease.

I thought it was interesting that palm tocotrienols might even be better for secondary prevention of stroke compared to aspirin because of all of the side effects of aspirin (stomach problems, excessive bleeding, etc).


Excellent presentation here at Palm Oil Nutrition Week in Malaysia from Dr. Yuen Kah Hay – Universiti Sains Malaysia – where he talked about the benefits of palm tocotrienols for neuroprotection – some notes:

-tocotrienols have a half-life 2-4 hours in humans (so 2x-daily dosing is recommended)

-tocotrienols completely prevented brain damage (white matter lesions – aka “mini-strokes”) over the course of 2 years (while the placebo group advanced in damage (more lesions and greater brain damage)

-animal studies have previously shown benefits in grey matter – suggesting that palm tocotrienols can help to protect the entire brain

-Bioavailability can be a huge issue to ensure absorption and biological benefits

-Arterial compliance (blood vessel stiffness) – is improved with palm tocotrienols

-new study underway to investigate peripheral neuropathy and cognitive dysfunction in type I and type II diabetics


Update from the scientific sessions at Palm Oil Nutrition Week:


Excellent presentation by Dr. Cameron Rink – Ohio State University

-palm tocotrienol can help to revascularize areas of the brain damaged by stroke by improving collateral circulation in ischemia (blood flow “goes around” the blockage in hemorrhagic stroke) – which helps to reduce the degree of brain damage after stroke

-the brains of those supplemented with tocotrienol show significant arteriogenesis = remodeling of existing collateral blood vessels in the brain (not angiogenesis – or creating of “new” blood vessels) – which results in significant functional benefits in animal models (they move around much more and efficiently)


Very interesting presentation by Dr. Pramod Khosla – Wayne State University – Tocotrienols Improve Lipid Profiles

-chronic kidney disease impairs filtration of toxins (cytokines/free radicals) – which build up and lead to problems (high levels of cellular oxidation and inflammatory tissue damage) – including lower HDL (“good” cholesterol) and higher LDL (“bad” cholesterol)

-tocotrienols are anti-inflammatory across numerous inflammatory markers

-tocotrienol suppresses HMG-CoA reductase (lowers cholesterol synergistically with lovastatin) – meaning that they can help lower cholesterol production in ways that not even statin drugs do…

-significant improvements in total antioxidant power (TAP), reduced triglyceride levels, and elevated HDL cholesterol in subjects supplemented with tocotrienols

-In these patients with chronic kidney disease, tocotrienol supplementation also reduced the number of hospitalized days – suggesting improved general health and wellness


Really interesting presentation at the Palm Oil Nutrition Week Conference from

Dr. Paul Sylvester – University of Louisiana – Tocotrienol Suppression of Breast Cancer.

Dr. Sylvester’s data mostly concerned cell cultures of breast cancer (test tube studies), but there were some amazing results that will eventually have implications for women concerned about breast cancer (which is everyone, right?)

Here are some interesting tidbits from his talk:

-tocotrienols have great potential in the prevention and treatment of cancer because of their multiple mechanisms of action against different types of cancer – such as inhibition of growth factor receptor activation and inhibition of cancer cell replication

-combining tocotrienol with different chemotherapy drugs can show a significant synergy to reduce cancer cell proliferation and inhibit breast cancer tumor growth


Anti-Aging effects of palm tocotrienols – from Palm Oil Nutrition Week in Malaysia:


Dr. Suzana Makpol – University of Kebangsaan (Malaysia) – Tocotrienols in Cellular Aging Prevention

-tocotrienol prevents telomere shortening induced by oxidative stress (telomeres are segments of DNA that can be used as an index of cellular aging – longer telomeres indicate a “younger” and healthier cell)

-tocotrienols delay aging in skin cells (fibroblasts) – especially when the cells are subjected to oxidative stress. In addition, cellular expression of structural skin proteins such as collagen and elastin is upregulated by tocotrienol, suggesting an enhancement of skin “rebuilding” ability…


Dr. Ima Nirwana Soelaiman – University of Kebangsaan (Malaysia) – Tocotrienols in the Prevention of Osteoporosis

-free radicals are involved in the creation and activation of osteoclasts (cells that digest bone) – leading to an increase in bone resorption and bone loss

-tocotrienols are able to reduce bone loss by controlling oxidation (leading to reduced numbers of osteoclasts)

-this bone-preserving effect of tocotrienol is also observed in rats following ovariectomy (removal of ovaries – inducing a surgical menopause) – and this benefit was comparable to supplementing with calcium or administering estrogen – possibly due to an effect of tocotrienols to also increase bone formation at the same time as it reduces bone loss (resorption).

-Bones are also stronger in the tocotrienol groups and can withstand more stress before breaking – this may be due to positive changes in overall bone structure (possibly to changes in collagen metabolism and not just in mineral content) and can be viewed as an anti-osteoporosis benefit of tocotrienol supplements


About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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