In her EmpowHER article, Fats that Heal: Fighting Cancer with Vitamin E in Tropical Oils, writer Lynnette Summerill delivered an in-depth report on Malaysian red palm oil’s powerful tocotrienols. Summerill interviewed Joseph Keenan, MD, one of the nation’s leading experts in nutritional supplement research and cardiovascular disease. Keenan offered his expert insights on palm oil-derived vitamin E tocotrienols, specifically about their potential impact on breast cancer.
Keenan first cautioned that there are different forms of vitamin E, and they have different benefits in the body. “Not all forms of vitamin E are equal,” he explained. “It gets pretty complicated, but the vitamin E family is made up of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta). Despite being touted in the 1980s as having health benefits, alpha tocopherols, which are found in most vitamin E supplements, showed lackluster, if not questionable results.” Preliminary research on tocotrienols derived from Malaysian red palm oil, however, indicates that this form of vitamin E may have benefits in the areas of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as breast, prostate and skin cancers.
“Recent breast cancer research has shown that although tocopherols failed to offer any protection, tocotrienols used alone and in combination demonstrated convincing potential anticancer properties,” Summerill wrote. She pointed out that several studies over the last decade suggest that tocotrienols increased breast cancer patients’ immunity, and slowed or stopped the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow and spread. They also inhibited cancer cell growth, and helped old cells to die off. Another study found that tocotrienols may work synergistically with tamoxifen, a commonly used breast cancer drug, in killing ER+ and ER- cancer cells.
While research has shown encouraging results, more human clinical trials are required. However, given the evidence to date, Keenan said that he would not hesitate to recommend tocotrienols to patients, family and friends. “For the average person, two tablespoons [of Malaysian palm oil] a day used as salad dressing or for cooking can offer healthful benefits,” Keenan added.