By Prof. Raphael NyarkoteyObu
Prostate health is very important to men due to the many roles the prostate play. Hence, there is a need to research local remedies and delicacies that could support the prostate. Most of these remedies are in our kitchen and farm. One such unexplored one is palm nut soup. Why is palm nut soup good for the prostate? I examine this in this article.
Palm nut soup is derived from palm fruit. An old study by Sundram et al.(2003) found that the palm fruit (Elaiesguineensis) yields palm oil, a palmitic-oleic rich semi-solid fat,and the fat-soluble minor components, vitamin E (tocopherols, tocotrienols), carotenoids and phytosterols. Though there aresome controversies surrounding vitamin E and prostate cancer, what they forgot to tell us is that two main forms exist;tocopherols, and tocotrienols, and their percentage varies drastically.
Interestingly, Palm vitamin E (30% tocopherols, 70% tocotrienols) has been extensively researched for its nutritional and health properties, including antioxidant activities, cholesterol-lowering, anti-cancer effects, and protection against atherosclerosis. These are attributed largely to its tocotrienolcontent.
A relatively new output from the oil palm fruit is the water-soluble phenolic-flavonoid-rich antioxidant complex. This has potent antioxidant properties coupled with beneficial effects against the skin, breast, and other cancers. Enabled by its water solubility, this is currently being tested for use as nutraceuticals and in cosmetics with potential benefits against skin aging. A further challenge would be to package all these palm ingredients into a single functional food for better nutrition and health.
With Vitamin E chemicals, tocopherols, there are four types of tocotrienols found in nature: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Tocotrienols occur in the oils of rice bran, palm fruit, barley, and wheat germ. However, we get all the amount, especially the 70% tocotrienols which is the most abundant in palm fruit in the soup.
Also, Palm oil is the most concentrated natural source of tocotrienols, but even so, you would have to consume an entire cup of palm oil each day to ingest the number of tocotrienolsthat experts suggest may have beneficial effects on health. This is why the soup is the easier way to get the needed higher levelsof the tocotrienols as we cannot drink the oil.
Tocotrienols vs. Tocopherol
Not all forms of vitamin E are the same, however. Tocopherols have a longer tail (phytyl), whereas tocotrienols have a shorter, more flexible tail (farnesyl).This small difference in molecular structure allows tocotrienols to cover a larger surface area of the cell membrane more quickly, hence making them more effective as antioxidants. These differences allow tocotrienols to more easily enter cells and intercept free radicals more—which explains why tocotrienols are 40–50 times more potent than tocopherols as antioxidants! As this article will discuss, an expanding body of research points to significant benefits supporting the tocotrienol form.
Barrie Tan, (2017) in an article narrates that vitamin E was discovered in 1922, as alpha-tocopherol. Between that time and 1940, scientists delved into tocopherol research, ranging from alpha-tocopherol’s isolation from plants, chemical identification, complete synthesis5, and antioxidant activity. The tocopherol form remained the main focus of vitamin E science for decades, and, as such, research on tocopherols boomed.
The second type of vitamin E which contained about 70% tocotrienols and is good for prostate health was discovered later, in the mid-1960s.Tocotrienols’ ability to lower lipids was first reported in the early 1980s; in the 1990s, tocotrienols were associated with the reduction of cardiovascular diseases and the inhibition of cancers. Despite the growing research on tocotrienols, they are still often confused with tocopherols and were not even properly listed in the Merck Index, the encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs, and biologicals, until 2001.
The challenge with Tocopherol
A previous study asserts that supplementing with alpha-tocopherol either doesn’t work or may cause harm—by increasing the risk of cancer and heart disease. This systematic review of randomized, controlled trials published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that supplementing with the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E increased the risk of death from all causes( Bjelakovic et al. (2007).
The very most recent study was conducted by Duell et al.(2022) published by the American Heart Association scientific statement suggesting that long-term supplementation with alpha-tocopherol can increase the risk of prostate cancer and heart failure.
Another issue with supplementing with alpha-tocopherol is that high doses of tocopherols interfere with the beneficial effects of tocotrienols-the 70% in the palm fruit. With too much alpha-tocopherol in the system (from supplements), tocotrienols are blocked from absorption and entry into the bloodstream.
The 70% tocotrienols-the benefits
Four studies (Constantinou et al. 2020; Marelli et al. 2019; Sailo et al. 2018; Constantinou et al. 2009) have reported that in a supplement form at higher doses, tocotrienols have great potential against a wide range of cancers, including breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, pancreatic, and skin cancers. They also reduce cancer cell proliferation and induce cancer cell death (i.e. apoptosis), with the most malignant forms of cancer appearing to be most sensitive to the actions of tocotrienols. Unlike tocopherols, tocotrienols have no known contraindications or long-term adverse effects.
Other emerging interests
Mohamad et al. (2012) study found that tocotrienols in palm fruit support postmenopausal rats with osteoporosis as it strengthens and more quickly heal bone fractures than other vitamin-E-based supplements.
Sen et al.(2004) on humans suggest that tocotrienols get into the brain faster, where they may improve brain function and health.
Meganathan and Fu(2016) tocotrienols may help slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries and decrease cholesterol levels. Also an overall positive effect on human health.
Getting vitamin E tocotrienols in the diet.
Natural vitamin E tocotrienols can be found in palm fruit especially delta- and gamma-tocotrienol, but not at high enough doses to be therapeutic. But is enough for prostate support especially for those concerned about reducing their risk of prostate cancer. Even those diagnosed with prostate cancer could also incorporate palm nut soup as part of their diet plan.
However, for those interested in vitamin E tocotrienolssupplement look out for the Delta- and gamma-tocotrienols; they are the most potent form, and annatto –is a natural food additiveis the only known plant that contains 100 percent delta- and gamma-tocotrienol, with no other forms of tocotrienols and no tocopherols. I shall tell you more about that plant.
Also, make sure for the supplementyou do not take more than 30 mg/d of tocopherols from other supplements. Most multivitamins and vitamin E supplements contain tocopherols, rather than tocotrienols, so check the labels of your current supplements.
I adapted this table from Kresser Chris(2022) to provide a guide for the recommended dosages of tocotrienol for various uses based on the current clinical evidence.
ConditionRecommended Daily Dose of TocotrienolInflammation250–300 mg/dHigh cholesterol or lipid abnormalities250–300 mg/dBlood sugar and metabolic issues250–300 mg/dCancer protection400–900 mg/dBone health300 mg/dBrain health250–300 mg/dArthritis and joint pain250–300 mg/dRadiation exposure250–300 mg/d
Recommended daily tocotrienol dosage by health condition/goal
Palm fruit used for palm nut soup has 70% of tocotrienols. Hence, it is good for prostate health. For those interested in the supplement form of vitamin E tocotrienols; you can get them in the pharmacy. Vitamin E, like many vitamins, has several isoforms that occur naturally in foods. These isoforms are called vitamers and include 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols, each labeled alpha, beta, delta, or gamma.
The study on vitamin E and cancer risk eventually used a single vitamer, alpha-tocopherol, which may be one reason for the negative findings. Evidence indicates other vitamers of E play a more prominent role in reducing the risk of cancer, including prostate cancer. Tocotrienols were also not part of the negative study. When next you are buying vitamin E make sure you do not buy tocopherol, choose tocotrienols. However, just in case there are mixed tocopherols and/or tocotrienol along with selenium may still be beneficial for the reduction of prostate cancer risk. Until that, the home delicacy of palm soup should be helpful.
Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.
The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. Currently BL Candidate at the Gambia Law School, Banjul. E. mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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