This is written by my colleague Zaidi Isham Ismail.
BUKIT JALIL, Selangor: IN the past few decades, cancer has fast become a dreaded disease that threatens human lives. However, a number of treatment approaches to prevent it at an early stage are also gaining momentum.
One of the preventive approaches, which has been tested in many cancer models, is through the use of palm-based Vitamin E tocotrienols.
There are two forms of vitamin E — tocotrienols and tocopherols. They exist naturally in vegetable oils.
Palm oil is a rich source of tocotrienols and tocopherols — 70 per cent of the vitamin E in palm oil is tocotrienols while the remaining 30 per cent is tocopherols.
In addition to the supervitamin E variant called tocotrienols, palm oil is also rich in other phytonutrients.
International Medical University Malaysia (IMU) immunologist Professor Ammu K. Radhakrishnan said joint research on the benefits of palm tocotrienols in cancer prevention carried out by the university in the past 15 years have yielded encouraging results.
“We have carried out research on the palm oil-based tocotrienols in the past 15 years and our studies have revealed that palm tocotrienols could reduce risks of deadly cancer activities.
“Palm tocotrienols have anti-cancer properties and we are currently looking at how this vitamin boost our natural defense system and fight infections, as well as its response during the healing process,” said Ammu.
She added that scientists are looking at how tocotrienols stimulate the immune system to fight cancer as they are more potent than tocopherols and appear to be able to boost the immune system and keep the balance.
Ammu said there is a misconception that cancer comes from external sources when, in fact, it starts when one’s body cells fail to regulate growth and become abnormal or “rogue”.
Cancer cells also require nutrients and other substances to grow and sustain their growth. For this, the cells will secrete chemicals that promote new blood vessels.
Palm tocotrienols seem to be able to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels. So,this is seen to be one of the mechanisms being used to fight cancer.
According to Ammu, studies using experimental models involving laboratory mice have shown palm-based tocotrienols are able to kill cancer cells and enhance their immune system.
A 2011 clinical trial involving 120 humans showed palm-based vitamin E is very effective in boosting immune in response to a vaccine.
Tocotrienols have other beneficial health effects such as anti-diabetic, cardioprotection, hypocholesterolemic, anti-oxidant, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory.
Ammu highlighted that tocotrienols, extracted from palm oil is able to minimise risks of chronic cancer, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.
She went on to advise that prevention is better than cure. One should lead a healthy lifestyle by not smoking cigarettes, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
According to Ammu, palm oil is fast gaining traction among medical practitioners in the fight against cancer.
“The research is still ongoing and we have to see how to disseminate all these beneficial findings to the public,” she added.