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Episode 2: Optimizing Longevity and Health with Vitamin E Tocotrienols with Dr. Barrie Tan

Show Notes

This episode of Conversations for Health features Designs for Health Chief Science Officer Dr. Barrie Tan for a conversation about vitamin E tocotrienols, geranylgeraniol (GG) and research that has been conducted regarding these compounds. As a professor of Chemistry and Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Barrie Tan is hailed as a trailblazer and the world’s foremost expert on vitamin E. Dr. Tan is credited with discovering a form of vitamin E called tocotrienol in the three major sources – Palm, Rice and Annatto. Described as a scientific pioneer, Dr. Tan is pursuing the simple mission of improving the everyday health of people’s lives through a tocotrienol product that is extracted from annatto and is the most potent form of vitamin E in existence today.

In our conversation, Dr. Tan highlights key differences between tocotrienols and tocopherols and offers insights into the cancer-prevention work that has shaped two decades of his life. He shares a high level overview of the benefits of tocotrienols, including several human clinical trials; the role of geranylgeraniol (GG); and offers simple ways to both explain and understand the function of these critical compounds in the journey toward longevity and health.

I’m your host Evelyne Lambrecht, thank you for designing a well world with us.

Episode Resource:

Dr. Barrie Tan

The Truth About Vitamin E: The Secret to Thriving with Annatto Tocotrienols

Design for Health Resources:

Designs for Health

Blog: Vitamin E Tocotrienols, Metabolic Health, and Healthy Aging

Blog: Vitamin K2 and GG Mitigate Insulin Resistance by Improving Mitochondrial Function

Tocotrienols White Paper

Webinar: Lipid-Soluble Nutrients in Metabolic Syndrome: The Supportive Roles of Tocotrienols, Resveratrol, and Vitamin D

Presentation: Dr. Barrie Tan at IHS 2023: Annatto’s Anti-Aging Benefits

Presentation: Dr. Barrie Tan at CASI 2022: Annatto Tocotrienol & Geranylgeraniol

Visit the Designs for Health Research and Education Library which houses medical journals, protocols, webinars and our blog.

Key Takeaways:

[1:53] Dr. Barrie Tan recounts his serendipitous discovery of tocotrienols in the annatto plant.

[5:44] Key chemical and research-supported differences between tocotrienols and tocopherols.

[9:56] Benefits of tocotrienols including inflammation management and oxidative protection.

[13:43] Tactics for explaining the consistent benefits of tocotrienols to patients.

[14:58] An overview of the chronic condition human clinical trials conducted by Dr. Tan.

[17:40] Conditions and outcomes of non-fatty liver disease studies.

[26:15] The science behind specific tocotrienol dosage recommendations.

[28:31] Dr. Tan highlights the impact of tocotrienol on genetic expression and why he rarely discusses it.

[33:09] The effective use of tocotrienols and tocopherols in skin health and hair growth.

[38:50] The ideal combination of supplements to support bone health and density.

[41:28] Dr. Tan’s discovery of GG, its location and functions in the body, and the mevalonic acid pathway.

[45:00] Three simple ways to identify the functions and purpose of GG.

[47:39] Why the body makes menaquinone-4 and the mechanism used to regulate it.

[53:25] Dr. Tan pieces together the relationship between bone health, MK-4, and GG.

[1:00:50] Dr. Tan shares his personal favorite supplements, his favorite health practices, and what he has changed his mind about after years in his field.



Conversations for Health dedicated to engaging discussions with industry experts, exploring evidence-based, cutting edge research and practical tips. Our mission is to empower you with knowledge, debunk myths, and provide you with clinical insights. This podcast is provided as an educational resource for healthcare practitioners only. This podcast represents the views and opinions of the host and their guests, and does not represent the views or opinions of Designs for Health Inc. This podcast does not constitute medical advice. The statements contained in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Now let’s embark on a journey towards optimal wellbeing one conversation at a time. Here’s your host, Evelyne Lambrecht.

Evelyne: Welcome to Conversations for Health. I’m your host, Evelyne, and today I’m excited to welcome to the show Dr. Barrie Tan. Welcome.

Dr Barrie Tan: Thank you. Thank you, Evelyne. Looking forward to this, so hopefully this will be a good educational time learning and also a fun time.

Evelyne: Definitely a fun time. We’ll be talking about vitamin E tocotrienols. We’ll be talking about geranylgeraniol or GG and the research that’s been done on these compounds. Dr. Tan has a doctorate in chemistry. He became a professor of chemistry and food science and nutrition at the University of Massachusetts. His research expertise is in carotenoids, vitamin E, CoQ10 and omega-3s, and he was the first to introduce the benefits of tocotrienols to the nutrition industry. He’s also the chief science officer at Designs for Health. And Barrie, we are so lucky to have you, so thank you.

Dr Barrie Tan: Thank you so much.

Evelyne: You’ve done multiple webinars with us. I think many practitioners have heard your story, but I love hearing it every time. I know that you discovered tocotrienols in palm oil and rice and in the annatto plant. Can you please share the beautiful story of how you stumbled upon the annatto plant?

Dr Barrie Tan: Yes. The year was 1994. There was an ophthalmologist at Harvard and she discovered that on the back of the retina there’s laden with lutein and zeaxanthin and it would filter the blue light. Today everybody knows to do that and they’ll say, well, why is he sharing that? Well, that was the reason I went to South America to look for the giant marigold plant that have lutein and zeaxanthin. So I went to South America looking for this plant to extract. I was not there looking for any tocotrienol, so I went and I did find the giant marigold, so I found what I went there to look for. Then fate has it literally 20 feet away from me. I saw the beautiful annatto plant. Now, I don’t know if the audience know this, lutein and zeaxanthin is the carotene, a carotenoid. The intense red color. I know some of the audience can see this.

The intense red color of annatto, we use it for coloring cheeses and some ice cream and some other foodstuff. They’re also carotene. That carotene stains your finger. If you touch it, it stains your finger like you pretend I touch it. It stains your finger here. But if you think of mostly carotene in life, they’re very unstable and people [inaudible 00:03:40], well wait a minute. How can carotene be unstable? I’ll be cooking carrot and the beta-carotene is good in the carrot, I’ll be cooking a tomato sauce and a lycopene is good in the tomato. Good question. Those beta-carotene and lycopene are inside the cell of the carrot and inside the cell of the tomato. But when I touch this annatto plant, it stains my finger enough that the British have nicknamed this the lipstick plant. So I realized that, oh, so it’s not inside a cell.

I was guessing. There must be a very potent antioxidant that protects this carotene from degrading. I thought that it was a polyphenol because many people take polyphenol like resveratrol, berberine and many of these other things like that, but it was none of that. So it was only a vitamin E molecule that protects the oxidation and then furthermore, it does not contain tocopherol, which is rare. And most surprisingly it only contain tocotrienol and the two most potent one. I just thought that, man, somebody up there is looking down on me on this. I didn’t even go to South America to look for this. I was looking for lutein and zeaxanthin, like I told you. So that was 25 years ago.

I came back, analyzed it, found out that it was the most potent vitamin E, the delta and gamma tocotrienol. Of course, by this time I’ve already left the university. I’ve spent an earlier 15 years or so studying vitamin E tocotrienol. So when I discovered this I decided that I got to stop everything and figure out how to get this out, how to do study and how to do clinical trial. So that has marked the entire two decades of my life. I was going to say two century. I’m not that old, two decades of my life.

Evelyne: That’s amazing. Barrie, take us back a little bit in terms of vitamin E research. So within vitamin E there are eight isomers, the tocopherols and the tocotrienols. Most people are familiar with or have supplemented with tocopherols. What are some of the differences both chemically but also from research between tocopherols and tocotrienols?

Dr Barrie Tan: The first discovery of vitamin E was alpha tocopherol and that was found in spinach. It’s not a lot because vitamin E are found where they are oily material and there’s not a lot of oil in spinach, but that’s where they found it. It was first discovered by two pediatrician, medical doctors and scientists at UC Berkeley exactly a hundred years ago, 1922. And then they found that this material is able to preserve the fetus until full term. People may or may not know it. People know that vitamin E is an antioxidant. It actually helped the fetus to go to full term so that the baby is born because there’s a lot of challenges to the fetus growing, so they need protection. So because of that vitamin alpha tocopherol became a vitamin and they just put the next letter E like that. That was the beginning.

About 50 years after that they discovered tocotrienol. So tocotrienol is known much later. Then in the 1980s and 90s there were a lot of vitamin E studies and if somebody Google vitamin E in the 1990s and even into the year 2000, most if not all of those vitamin E study fail. And you can Google this, it’s not a threat to me, but at the time I was a young assistant professor as an old man, somebody’s going to throw the baby with the bath water and I’m gone. But I persisted on the tocotrienol study. If you look at those study carefully, they are doing two things. They only use alpha to tocopherol and furthermore they use synthetic alpha tocopherol most of the study, so that those study fail. They try to do it on many chronic condition fail at best and at worst it may even cause women to have breast cancer, men to have prostate cancer.

So then everybody just froze. That’s with the tocopherol. The tocotrienol meantime, I started at the mid 80s. I persisted to do research work and I said, oh, this tocotrienol inhibit cancer, inhibit the ability to lower cholesterol all animal study. Then when I discovered the annatto, I decided to extract them. Then I realized, hey, I got to do study with this delta and gamma tocotrienol and I did a lot. So to date I probably have a hundred papers on animal study on it. So approximately 15 years ago I started to do clinical study and we have today about 25 or more clinical trials on various things about tocotrienol and geranylgeraniol. So the difference between the two, chemically the difference is easy. I’ll put up. I know those who are not watching video cannot see.

This is a structure of tocotrienol. So if I show you this, you see there’s one double bond here, one double bond here and the last double bond here and chemically double bond means -en because there are three tri-en and hence this is tocotrienol. Otherwise, if there are no double bond you’ll be tocopherol because of the three double bond, the tail is shorter so therefore it can protect the cell membrane approximately 50 times better than tocopherol. So that would be a functional difference. But if it’s a chemical structural difference, it just have three double bond and the tocopherol is fully saturated with no double bond.

Evelyne: You’re definitely a chemistry professor at heart. So our practitioners have patients who are very smart, very educated. They have seen some of this research probably Reddit about the dangers of vitamin E. How can a practitioner best explain to his or her patient why we want to use tocotrienols instead and how do they work? Is it that they are more anti-inflammatory? Can you get into that more?

Dr Barrie Tan: Okay, I’ll answer the first part. How can a health professional explain to their patient? And then what about the difference in terms of benefits like inflammation or oxidative protection? The first part. There are four tocopherols and four tocotrienol, and they are simply using the Greek letter alpha, beta, delta, gamma tocopherol, alpha, beta, delta, gamma tocotrienol. And of these eight molecules only alpha tocopherol has a transport protein. Now that’s a big word to use to help the patient understand. If you take food, if the compound is not something special, it will be broken down somewhat and then by passive diffusion, high concentration outside in your gut and your gut here, and this is your system, it will diffuse from high concentration to low concentration. So it’s a mechanical thing, a transport protein meaning that it have a rite of passage, it will just chaperone the compound you have and go right through.

Compounds in a body have that kind of transport protein. Example, retinol, vitamin A, it gets absorbed into the food, but it specifically goes to the retina. So it goes to the retina, that’s a very specific place in the part of the body on one part of the eye. Among the vitamin E, only alpha tocopherol has a transport protein, is referred to alpha tocopherol transport protein. So if you want to use a simple analogy, it’s not difficult. If you happen to have a ticket to go to the Oscar, you probably have to line up all night long like that to wait for your line to go through. And then comes a limo and then out comes Nicole Kidman. She does not have to wait. She would just go right through because she have to rite the passage like this. Very simple, not complicated and some compounds have that.

Alpha tocopherol has it, retinol has that, some other protein and things have that. But most of the other tocopherol and tocotrienol do not have it. So they have to have passive diffusion. So when people take a lot of alpha tocopherol vitamin, they go straight into your body. We have no idea what the tocopherol does. I think that it is because of that the large clinical trials fail. So my judgment call is this, do not take supplemental alpha tocopherol. It is fine to take the alpha tocopherol from the food and vegetable that you eat. If you do that, you probably consume about 10 milligram, 12 milligram a day. That will be fine from the vegetable oil, the avocado that you eat. And then if you supplement, then supplement tocotrienol. So the tocotrienol will go straight to by passive diffusion and not mess up. The second part you ask is how would you explain the benefit to the health profession to the patient that is better than tocopherol.

We have done many animal study and we have 25 clinical trials to show this. Almost always, Evelyne, we show we try to measure oxidative markers like fat in your blood. Are they oxidized fat or regular fat? We try to measure inflammation marker like C-reactive protein. Doctors can do this on a patient sometime they get fancy. We can study interleukin six and other bloodborne markers and when we do this we systematically see oxidized fat and interleukin six or C-reactive protein decrease typically 20% on the low side, 40% on the high side. So it calms the body oxidative stress and calms the body’s inflammation. We see that consistently with tocotrienol and we see that sometimes with tocopherol and sometime not. So that would be an easy way to pass the information to the consumer.

Evelyne:Since you touched on the studies, I’d love to get into those. Can you tell us more about the human clinical trials that have been done? Which specific conditions? What are the doses that were used in the studies and what were the outcomes?

Dr Barrie Tan: Okay, here I’m going to give you a choice to ask me. I will tell you all the clinical trials we did on chronic condition, we did it on chronic conditions and I mention them and then you can cherry-pick, can you talk to us about this like that? And then I can tell you the dosage and then the function.

Evelyne:All right.

Dr Barrie Tan: So we first found this out from animals study and we saw that they consistently reduce their inflammation. Then I said, okay, so what kind of condition cause inflammation to go up and how do we go about study in human? Then I found out then I consider that chronic conditions are the one that is most forth bearing on this area. Then I decided to choose the one that have the largest subset. So therefore we study people with dyslipidemia, which mean triglyceride and cholesterol are high dyslipidemia. We study people with pre-diabetes. So the sugar and fat is moderately high but not high enough to be diabetic. And then we study people who are type two diabetics and we are now studying men and women with obesity. So all these are chronic condition.

And lastly probably the one that I’m most gung-ho with, we study people who have fatty liver disease now. So non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. So if you say this group, people who are dyslipidemia, probably 60 million people, people pre-diabetes, 95 million, a hundred million people. People with diabetes, 35 million. People who with obesity, about 25%, I don’t know what that come up to, probably 50 million. And then people who have fatty liver disease is about 90 million. Of course these are not additive. Some of them overlap there, two or three. In other words, some people who are overweight, obese could have fatty liver condition. So I would say that we cover probably a hundred to 150 million people. So if you think about annatto tocotrienol and what is useful in a [inaudible 00:17:30], it probably matches 150 million people should be taking this supplement. So how about you now tell me, which one would you like me to cover?

Evelyne: Since you said you’re the most gung-ho about non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, I wanted to ask you about that one anyway. Can you talk about the changes that we’re seeing, the parameters that were studied, and I imagine that some of those are related to some of those other conditions as well, right?

Dr Barrie Tan: Yes, they are related. Oftentimes people who have fatty liver disease, their metabolic syndrome, so their condition overlap with those who are pre-diabetes. We usually, when we choose people with NAFLD fatty liver disease, we do not usually choose them who are diabetic because diabetic already currently are taking many medications. So that’s very confusing when you try to randomize the study. So in this fatty liver thing, the sugar is normal high but not high enough to be diabetic, the triglyceride is high and then when they did a liver scan they can see that there is cytosis, which mean a fat store in the liver. So in this one here we have already done earlier trial. People are familiar sometime with the phrase dose dependent. So they give let’s say a hundred milligram, 200 milligram, 400 milligram. Those dose are dose dependent. We have already done dose dependent study Evelyne, so we are not looking to do dose dependent study.

We knew that 600 milligram work perfectly and you can buy tocotrienol out there. There are 300 milligram taken twice a day. So instead we study time dependent. So first we did a three-month study. In the three-month study we wanted to know if the tocotrienol would lower the stress enzymes produced in the liver like ALTAST and the stress enzyme drop. So it’s very neat, we can see it. So I said okay good. Then I decided I need to do further on a six-month study to see if that would work. When we did the six-month study, we still do did the enzyme. Now we study C-reactive protein interleukin six, and then we also study cytosis. So you use an ultrasound like you see fetus in a woman’s womb. You can also use ultrasound to map the liver to see if the fat is there or not.

And we saw that the cytosis also dropped, very positive like that. And then we also measure metabolite stuff like triglyceride, sugar, cholesterol that drop moderately, very positive. And then I decided that I need to do a one-year study. One year study means two years by the time you recruit people and do it. These are lengthy time-consuming, not to say the least of which is also cost. So we did one. You know why we did that? We did that because the liver is the largest organ in the body. I wanted to have the affirmation if it works in three months, six months, if it continues to work up at 12 months, then this is really good. That’s my intent. But there is a last thing why I did this, is a modus that drove me in the back but I saved that last to do so you won’t get distracted.

So on the 12-month study we study all the thing we did in three months and six months. Remember the independent study, they’re all given 600 milligram. The no dose dependent, only time dependent. So we did the 12-month study. This time we want all the earlier markers I mentioned to you, plus we need to have a CAT scan to see if you are too much fat in the liver. The fat causes a liver cell to have fibrosis which means have scarring tissue. That’s not good because they’re getting in the direction that cannot be reversed. If it’s irreversible, NAFLD become NASH, N A S H, non-alcohol steatohepatitis. So you don’t want to go there. If you’re in NASH then you cannot do anymore. Then you put your name on the liver transplant. Well it is still okay to put your name on the liver transplant, but keep this in mind, there are 90 million people with fatty liver.

They are simply not enough people even if they were to donate their liver to transplant 90 million people. So this is not a good thing. Even if you’re on the liver transplant, you are almost going to wait and you’re probably going to die waiting. Now another point I want to make here, this is a… I don’t mean to be moral, but I’m just making a statement. About 30, 40 years ago, it was a religious reason why people drink alcohol too much, they have cirrhosis of the liver so they just can’t control their alcohol. Nobody then would have ever believed that if you consume a lot of carbohydrate and sugar and fat, you have the liver exactly the same that can be damaged by alcohol. If you think about it is incredible, alcohol is a very powerful drug that can damage the liver.

Normally if you drink alcohol the alcohol is metabolized, but if you drink so much the liver can’t handle it. So over time the liver became fatty and now can you imagine that dietarily, we can have the liver like that of alcohol. This is unthinkable but it is happening. And so they cannot be 95 million alcoholic here. They cannot be that. So this 95 million people are because of food thing. So anyway, I got carried away there. So on the 12-month study we saw that it has reversal of fibrosis. I remember my colleague Ann, he told me, he said, Barrie, did you notice that on the three month I notice it. Then I said, I don’t want to think about it. I told her. Then there’s a six-month study. She saw it again. Then I tell you what it is, we saw that at three months and six months the patient lost weight.

They lost 10 to 15 pounds and then I became uncomfortable, I’ll tell you why. And then at 12 months they also lost 10 to 15 pounds and said that Barrie, you got to pay attention to this. They lost weight at three months, six months and 12 months. And then I told her that I was uncomfortable in this because if I start mumbling this people is going to say that this tocotrienol is weight loss. And weight loss people looking for something in two weeks or four weeks, but I don’t have study in two weeks. My shortest study was three months. Then Ann said, well then just tell people that it is a three month, they lost weight. They said don’t say anything about it two weeks because you didn’t have the data. Then I said, oh yeah, I wasn’t thinking. But you see I was so adverse to this thing about weight loss thing.

I think that the inflammation and the whole metabolism in the body is so out of kilter. So when that thing begin to come back into balance, the weight accommodation is go back. So now I’m more comfortable to report that at three, six and 12 months they have sustained weight loss, 10 to 15 pounds and most of this fatty liver patient were overweight anyhow. So weight loss is a good, it’s not the cake but actually it’s icing on the cake. So we reported this, so I am just thrilled about this study on this fatty liver thing. So it doesn’t cure you from NAFLD, but it provides a modicum of addressing a fatty liver situation. So if the practitioner out there, you have all the numbers on the blood panel, you ask the patient to come back three months after and you do the same blood work and you can email me, I’ll tell you what blood, I’ll send you the paper. You can do exactly the same protocol that you will do there and if you do this, you don’t need me to convince you. You will be convinced and your patient will be convinced and if the patient stand on the weight balance, they will know the weight loss. They’ll be the first to know before they even tell the doctor like that. So I’m really thrilled about that.

Evelyne: I have two follow up questions for you. You said time dependence. So I want to talk about do you take tocotrienols with, without food and why? And also is there a certain amount that you shouldn’t take at once?

Dr Barrie Tan: About seven, eight years ago we did a study. We gave people all at one time and that’s how we came up with a number. I’m trying to answer your question. We did approximately 100 milligram, 200 milligram, 400 milligram and 800 milligrams, something like that. All given at one time. So when we did that, we saw that somewhere in about 300 to three 50 milligram is about the top at one time. Meaning that when we gave people a 200 milligram, say the absorption was here. So if you give them 400 milligram, you would expect the absorption to be double. But we didn’t. The 200 milligram here, 400 milligram here and then at 800 milligram here. So I got a feeling that the more you gave people all at one time, the body cannot handle and cannot absorb. So we deem that the 300 milligram would be 300, 350 would be the peak.

So if you go there Designs for Health sell a 300 milligram isn’t because I instructed them anything more is not going to help people like that on the absorption piece. So when people need to take 600 milligram, like the fatty alcohol study, they take two 300 milligram at separate time and we ask people to take tocotrienol because it’s oil soluble with a meal. So they can either take it with breakfast or lunch or dinner as to when it’s taken doesn’t really matter. I take mine with lunch and dinner because at lunch and dinner I have a little bit more fat. More fat, it is emulsified better than absorbed better. And breakfast I usually may have a scone or a piece of toast and coffee so there may not be enough fat. So I do not take tocotrienol with my breakfast. So I answer your second question as well. So those are the two ways to do it.

Evelyne: And I also have a question about the inflammation. So obviously it’s lowering markers of inflammation. Is that through up regulation and downregulation of certain genes? How is it impacting genetic expression? Have we looked at that?

Dr Barrie Tan: Yes, actually that’s a very good question you asked. You can see my bias but I’ll answer your question. I tell you why I don’t usually speak about them. It silences more inflammatory gene and pro-inflammatory gene and many people have done animal study and clearly show where it knocks out so that the inflammatory gene is silent and so therefore translated the C-reactive protein drop and the interleukin drop. We even did that on a clinical study. We measure the micro RNA. So when we saw for example one, we measure a marker that show that if the marker is reduced, the fibrosis on the liver is reduced. So I like that it’s a fibrosis marker. So this scientists go back and study the micro RNA of this fibrosis marker and saw that the micro RNA is also dropped. So there’s a gene expression like that.

So there you have it. So now I have to tell you my bias, why do I not talk about that even though it’s so positive? Having read hundreds and hundreds of paper, people have a lot of this gene expression thing and when they explain this gene expression, then they say is this mode of action. Then they have this other gene expression here, then they have this mechanism of action and then there’s something else. Then there’s another mecha… So after you read a hundred paper, I’m thinking wait a minute, you have a hundred way to do this. I’m finding myself hard to believe this. So I usually take it, I believe it, but I take grain of salt. But if you tell me a bloodborne marker is working, then I believe it better. And I believe the most when you actually give a phenomenon I call phenomenon, meaning that if a doctor can perform ultrasound on the person’s liver or you do a CAT scan and you see that the cytosis have gone down and the fibrosis is reduced, wow, that is something.

But of course you cannot be all that. If it’s all that, then you have people say, oh, I took 300 milligram tocotrienol and I lost 10 pounds. That’s fantastic. See it may come across as not believable. It is just my testimony. So they must be a part that has to do with a clinician’s expertise to a personal wellness when they take certain supplement. And then usually I look at markers occasionally when I don’t look at markers, I let the scientists decide. We are doing tocotrienol now on dysbiosis because it helped [inaudible 00:31:56]. And so they are studying what kind of gene expression has gone up and what have gone down. And what seemed to go up are the good bugs gene and what seems to go down are the bad bugs gene. So they’re trying to go to the nitty-gritty of it. But for me, I will be satisfied if you tell me the good bugs go up and the bad bugs go down. You know what I mean?

Evelyne: Yeah.

Dr Barrie Tan: So it’s that attention, but it is a good thing. So far all our genetic study helped to support the understanding that the tocotrienol works.

Evelyne: Yeah, I just love hearing some of the science behind it, but it is true. What’s meaningful for the patient is to actually see, well physical changes and obviously changes in how someone feels, but then also see that on lab work. But it’s still fun to get into the science and actually I have probably 50 or more questions to choose from. But what’s funny is one of them was on whether tocotrienols have any impact on the gut microbiome and then I thought, no, I’m not going to ask it, but you just went into that. So that’s really cool. Before we switch our focus to GG, I do want to touch on, well we talked about cardiovascular a bit through the non-alcoholic fatty liver. I want to talk about skin health briefly and about bone health because I think that’s an area where we wouldn’t maybe think of tocotrienols. So on skin health, I know there’s just… Collagen is everybody’s taking collagen. The beauty firm within concept is super popular. I remember seeing some studies on tocotrienols and skin health and I believe also hair growth. And my question to you as well, can you just touch on those briefly? But I’m also curious, vitamin E alpha tocopherol is used a lot in topical skincare.

Dr Barrie Tan: Yes.

Evelyne: Either as a preservative or as an active ingredient. Do you know if there is any problem with using alpha tocopherol topically or should we also be using tocotrienols in skincare? Just curious from my own.

Dr Barrie Tan: I think on the skincare thing is if you look at alpha-tocopherol, if it is actually for the skin, then it would not be alpha tocopherol acetate or alpha tocopherol palmitate. If you see them, if it’s not the free alcohol alpha tocopherol then as an acetate or palmitate, then it’s using purely as an antioxidant to make sure that the cream is not oxidized. It’s just like this. Vitamin E and skincare does matter. I have not done enough work on this, study on this. We have done prelim earlier animal study. It has [inaudible 00:34:55] property, it has reduced blemishes because it reduces the melanization as we age. It has that component. And of course we study things that are hyperplasia, which means like psoriasis, it’s like not cancerous, but it’s going that direction. It’s autoimmune. So if you apply that, it would also reduce that.

We have also had people who have melanoma and the tocotrienol would work. But oftentimes I encourage people because all the animals study they taken orally, but people have skin cancer and they apply. They just cut off the [inaudible 00:35:36] and apply it on the skin of the animal. They have melanoma or they’re part of the body that have, many stories like that that have helped them. But you are talking about skin health as a normal skin health. I only have anecdotal evidence on animal study lots and lots of study and I believe that it does work on the skincare because you mentioned collagen. Collagen is a subcutaneous layer of your skin and we begin to thin. So the skin begin very thin as we go older. That is what collagen supposed to make the skin feeling supple, tocotrienol and vitamin E do not work like that.

Instead, the tocotrienol get into the cell wall of your skin and protect your skin from oxidative damage such as from the sun and such as from ozone and such as from toxic in the land on your thing like smog. Sometimes you drive to in the middle of LA you can swipe your hand, you can see dirt on your hand, that kind of thing. So it’s your own sweat that have toxicant and toxicant from the environment. UV radiation, ozone like that. If you do this, well collagen, collagen doesn’t help you like that. It’s just making your skin supple. But tocotrienol literally will protect your skin. But we don’t have many people using tocotrienol to put skincare, they should. But I think until there is one, I do notice that if you take tocotrienol supplement, it will deposit on the viable layer of your skin.

Now this may sound, I’m not mentioning names like this. I have a Japanese professor, he gave tocotrienol to women with breast cancer. That’s very serious. And about a year later I asked him, how are your women with breast cancer doing? He said that they’re still waiting for biopsies, but their tumor is not going and not moving forward. Man, that’s good news to me. Then he said, oh, I have a good side effect to tell you. I said what? He said, many of these women have to go to radiation and that part of the body does not look pretty when they go to radiation. So when they took tocotrienol, their skin are not inflamed and they are more supple. And I said, aha. So now I didn’t say in front of him, and of course the ladies who had this situation, it’s not a negative thing. It’s a positive thing. So clearly the tocotrienol is bearing implication to positive benefit to the skin. It is a side benefit. They care more if the cancer is killed like that. So I think that they have bearings there on the skin health. So that’s the best I can do. I don’t have too many people taking me on to apply on skincare other than orally when they take it, their skin got better like that. So that’s that piece. You mentioned bone health.

Evelyne: Yes. Let’s get into that.

Dr Barrie Tan: There are hundreds of studies in animal on bone health. You use [inaudible 00:38:57] to do it, [inaudible 00:38:59] to lower the bone density. People take steroid drugs, lower the bone density. They have ovariectomized rats that will simulate postmenopausal women. They have ocitectomized. I didn’t even know what that mean until this person did the work. Ocitectomized means that they removed the gonads and then so therefore the male rats will become like 65, 70 years old. So when they did that, the bone density decreased and then when they give them tocotrienol, the tocotrienol fortified the bone. How about I leave that piece on bone health. When you talk to me about GG, I will tell you a perfect supplement that help in bone health is the combination of GG and tocotrienol. But for tocotrienol we did one clinical trial, we have biological markers.

Basically the osteoblast increase and the osteoclast decrease and overall the balance of the two is better as she age. We are all doing it on postmenopausal women. And then also the oxidative marker also was suppressed because when the estrogen drop, by the way, estrogen is an antioxidant. So her estrogen is actually a protective antioxidant. So during the menopause it drop, so therefore the oxidation increase and tocotrienol is a powerful antioxidant. It reduce the oxidative marker and inflammation drop. So we have that also. We noticed that in that study we have a placebo group, 300 and 600. We found that the 300 works really well and the 600 did not buy much more, little more like 10% more. So if it’s a hundred percent, 600 would be 100. We didn’t see 100, 200% we only saw 110% of the 600. So therefore for bone health, 300 milligram would be just fine.

Evelyne: Okay, I do want to talk about GG more and also thank you for touching on the skincare part. I haven’t been taking my tocotrienols every day, but I think you’ve just given me a reason to take them every single day. And I also did want to point out, if you’re watching this, I have this book right here, but if you’re listening, The Truth about Vitamin E is an excellent resource that also goes through the trials and of course we have so much information that we’ll share in the show notes as well. And Barrie, I’m I’m wearing yellow today too, to match your book.

Dr Barrie Tan: Yes.

Evelyne: Okay, so let’s talk about GG. So I’ve pronounced it geranylgeraniol, I think you call it geranylgeraniol. We’ll just call it GG.

Dr Barrie Tan: Yeah. We’ll call it GG. That would be good now.

Evelyne: So I’d love to know, well first of all how you discovered it because you discovered that in an annatto plant as well. And then also I still sometimes get lost explaining GG to a practitioner. So explain to me, not as if I am a fifth grader and also not as if I’m in your college chemistry class, but maybe like high school biology.

Dr Barrie Tan: Something in between.

Evelyne: Something in between. Where it is in the body because it is endogenously produced, what its functions are. And talk about the mevalonic acid pathway.

Dr Barrie Tan: On the discovery part, I mentioned to you that I extracted the tocotrienol, I found that protect the color. So when we found the process to do this, we first remove all the color and then we use a physical technique, no chemical, no nothing. We just use an extraction technique. We take out the tocotrienol. I always found in the bottom of the pot something that look like dark yellow color, a little bit light brown color like that. I didn’t know what it was, but I thought that, man, I already got my delta gold just metaphorically, I got my gold, I’m fine with it. But then I’m a curious scientist. So I don’t know what it is. I had check it out. So I check it out and then I analyze it. I found that it this compound, geranylgeraniol. Then I said, I don’t know what this compound is. Then I did literature search and said, oh, this is a endogenous nutrient. This is a nutrient that our body make. Then I dig further deeper into it. Oh my goodness, this is also an endogenous nutrient in the plant. So right now, so I told you the discovery story. So now how is it working? Before I tell, of course we are all anal. We are mammal part of the mammalian system. So we want to know how it works on a human being. But before, if I tell you this, this may surprise you. When you go eat your food, your lovely vegetable, usually vegetable are largely green color or they are a hue anything from yellow, orange to red color, those are the carotenoid. When you do that the next time, just remember every time you see carotenoid, all carotene, all no exception, they come from GG.

No GG, no carotenoid synthesis. Isn’t that amazing? The plant needs it to make that. So beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, the whole bottle of… Everything, they need GG to make. That’s one. What about the green color? The green color is your chlorophyll. You have plants behind you like that. They’re green color. Chlorophyll is a complex with a magnesium in the middle as a complex porphyrin ring. And on the bottom there there’s a tail and the tail of a chlorophyll for the chlorophyll to even work is a tail of GG. So whenever you see green leafy vegetable, just think GG. That’s it. So that’s on the plant. Any animal, this part, I know you, I’m going to make it simple. You are not going to forget this, Evelyne. And I wanted to make it simple also for the audience. GG is endogenous. So our body makes GG for specific reasons. I don’t know if I know all the reason, but I know enough now for the past 10 years to at least summarize in this three area. I’ll put it like that first. The three big classes, it’s an essential for synthesis. So it makes something else. Second, it has endogenous function. It does very specific things in your body. And the last one is GG is required to prevent site effects.

So I do the first one for essential synthesis. About 40% of a human weight is muscle. GG is required for the synthesis of skeletal muscle protein. I said it in the simplest way I can. 40% of your body weight is muscle is required for the synthesis of skeletal muscle protein. So when we get older, we have sarcopenia the loss of muscle mass because our body don’t make enough GG. Remember GG is not an amino acid, it’s not a protein, it’s just an isoprenoid compound. And without that isoprenoid compound we cannot make this kind of protein. So that’s one. So another synthesis, nutrient synthesis. Oh, what nutrient is he talking about? Two that I know. In time, I may even know more, but two. CoQ10. If you are looking at video behind my neck here, that’s a long molecule of CoQ10. And here that’s the CoQ10 antioxidant group and the long tail carbon, hydrogen, black and white here all the way here. That is entire tail. Oh you see that? That is the molecule of GG.

So two and a half-length of this guy, the GG is the entire tail of CoQ10 in the back here. So GG is required for the synthesis of CoQ10. So everything you know about CoQ10 energy, muscle health, cardiovascular benefit, blah blah, all this wonderful thing, it requires this. So today I’m here to tell you to the best of my knowledge, as we age, we don’t have enough CoQ10. Everybody know that and you know that. Therefore, you supplement more CoQ10, ubiquinone, ubiquinol, all this wonderful thing. I’m telling you, the reason your body decrease in CoQ10 as we age is because your body don’t make enough this guy. If you don’t make enough this guy, therefore you don’t make enough CoQ10. So it’s for that.

The next one, another nutrient would be menaquinone. Everybody in the audience know about menaquinone seven because everybody talks about menaquinone seven. But menaquinone are typically produced by fermentation in the colon and usually the colon does not make much if any. MK four, it make long chain MK seven, MK 10, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 30, the long chain. Somehow the bug love this and make long. Now I’m not saying that making menaquinone is no good in the colon is good because if they make those menaquinone then you have good bugs increase and bad bugs drop. But when it’s in the colon, those menaquinones are not absorbed. The absorption thing is in the small intestine. So now I’m going to tell you this part.

The only menaquinone make inside your body is MK four, menaquinone four. So whether you are a scientist or a lay person, don’t you think you should ask of all the menaquinones, why does our body only make MK four? You owe it to yourself to ask the question. You don’t wait to have people confuse you and say, oh in our colon they make all kinds of menaquinone. That’s correct. The bug is making those menaquinone and the bug is making those menaquinone for itself, not for you. We’re all so funny and we are just lucky it make those menaquinone so we have good bug go up and a bad bug go down. But the bugs are not making the stupid menaquinone for you. It’s making it for itself or its own survival. How about you ask a simpler question because I just told you the only menaquinone made in 25 organs in your body is MK four.

Then I said that begs the question, why is the human body make menaquinone four? I don’t think your body and my body is stupid. It had an evolution of years and eons of time to come to make MK four. Here, I hope I have arrested your attention. This is it. You’re going to like this. If you take green, leafy vegetable, let’s say this, that’s phylloquinone, that’s vitamin K one. That’s the one that it goes into your body, you tear in your body, your body will form clot and it will seals the tear. Just like if you got a cut in your hand, you wipe away the blood and then you got some very yellowish pus and that’s have to do with vitamin K one, this guy. So if you take a vitamin K one, it go this. By the way, only a fixed amount of this phylloquinone go in your body.

Not everything you eat on the phylloquinone go in your body. If it does, all my vegan friends will literally clock to death. All my vegan friends do not clot to death. And why do I say? Because they eat a lot of vegetable. They eat food like rabbit food. So if they eat rabbit food, they got a lot of this stuff. So then they will have clot to death. They don’t clot to death. So there must be another mechanism. I don’t know, do you follow what I’m saying? So they take the only a fixed amount of these goes in your body to prevent clotting. That’s the K one. Most of the time at the gut, the gut, the tail, this is the ring, this is the tail. The tail is saturated in vitamin K one they have enzyme. I purposely do it.

So it just cut it off and this is washed up. This is too green, it’s from the plant, it goes in your body and then your body is going to look for this guy here. I purposely chose it red because it’s GG. The human body is flush with red like that, is exactly the same shape as the green one that’s been cut off. That is GG. And then the GG will find this one from the green plant. And then he said, you hear the sound I just show you that’s MK four. That is MK four and your body makes that. So now why does your body make MK four? Your body makes MK four because MK four is responsible to make a protein called osteocalcin. And this osteocalcin will go into the bone and trap the calcium in place and make the calcium stay put. So therefore your bone would not have mineral loss. That is MK four.

So now let me piece the whole bone story together. If you go backward, strong bones require calcium to stay put. Calcium will stay put there when you have this protein called osteocalcin to keep it put. And that is made by MK four. So the MK four will sweep all the calcium from your artery so you don’t have calcified artery and goes to the bone. And having said that, I’m giving you the piece that people don’t talk about. MK four can only be made by GG. You can see the whole molecule of GG on MK four and that comes from GG. So early on I told you that we did a study on tocotrienol. It makes the osteoblast go up and osteoclast go down. Tocotrienol does not do anything to trap the calcium in place. That’s a MK four function.

Tocotrienol only stimulate your body to have osteoblast. They make the cell that make strong bone and less osteoclast. They make the cell that decrease the cell that destroy the bone cell. So if you have GG and tocotrienol together is as good as it gets. And I’m really blessed to know this. When I discovered this from annatto, this was not in my head space. I was going after tocotrienol and this monkey that’s in the bottom, the pot called GG, I didn’t even want to do it. I actually want to throw it away. But then after curiosity killed the cat, I just thought, man, I got to figure out what this is the and then found GG. Then I don’t know what GG. So when I start reading I said, oh my goodness, this GG make the protein.

And then the last thing would be, I know I’m dragging this thing out. So the essential synthesis make muscle protein. Nutrient is COQ10 and MK four and stimulate steroid production. So it increases testosterone. So we are studying people who have increased testosterone. Do that piece. Let me quickly tell you the other one and then you can see what you want me to cover. It’s also good for endogenous function. I already mentioned bone health, so I leave it there. It also help in pain reduction. Now the pain reduction thing, everybody is talking about cannabinoid. The cannabinoid work on the receptor due to the morphine alkaloid receptor. GG does not work on that receptor. GG work on heat. If you touch something hot, your hand goes back heat receptor, but that is a pain receptor. Or you eat very spicy food that heat receptor that kind, or a pressure receptor. If you stand strongly on your thing and your hand and then your joint hurts you that pressure receptor.

And the last one is inflammation receptor. So therefore if somebody take cannabinoid to manage pain, this could be something. So it’s a pain reduction. And the last one is body temperature control. Not everybody is into this but some people are. With the long COVID people seem to have a malaise in their life and sometime their limbs are always cold. But for me, I live in New England and in the wintertime my limbs get cold. We are supposed to be warm-blooded. Warm-blooded meaning that when your temperature drop you have warm blood and your warm blood floods to your extremity and warm your finger. But if it doesn’t warm your finger, that means that the warm temperature of your blood comes from the temperature from brown adipose tissue. White adipose tissue stores fat. Brown adipose tissue burns the fat and converts to heat and the heat warms your extremity. That’s it.

Trust me, you cannot just have warm blood that go to your extremity and then your body will be same temperature. Had to come from somewhere. Scientists found out that the burning or brown adipose tissue comes from GG. If you don’t have enough GG, it cannot give you brown. So I’m not going to go into a cold ice bath and stimulate my body to make brown adipose. They have all kinds of YouTube out there. But GG is the reason how the body make brown adipose tissue. So that’s three on endogenous function. So the last one is this on reversal of side effects. Statin decimate CoQ10. Statin cause myopathy, both of these come from GG. GG makes CoQ10, GG make muscle. That’s why statin decimate.

Women with osteoporosis are asked by the doctor to take bisphosphonate drugs and bisphosphonate help to make the bone cell in the bone. But bisphosphonate somehow destroy the jaw gum here and they have a condition called jawbone necrosis. And they found out that the necrosis, which mean the death of the jawbone is because the bisphosphonate so destroyed the gum cell. And they found out the death of the gum is because the bisphosphonate literally killed the GG at the gum and therefore the gum died. So right now we’re doing a clinical study. When a dentist take away the tooth and when they put cement in the lucerne into the socket, they will put a drop of GG and then put in and suture it. We hope that with a GG in there it will help to replenish the GG to the gum and the gum would replenish. Remember if that works and the myopathy thing work and then helping people to have CoQ10 and MK four, I’m really glad I decided to analyze the GG. I was going to throw the thing away and I did. So those are the three definitive function, endogenous synthesis, endogenous function, and then to prevent side effects.

Evelyne: Thank you so much Barrie. I feel like it’s actually sinking in. Things are firing in my brain. I’m getting it. So thank you so much and that’s why I just let you go the whole time. We are running out of time. So I almost feel like this warrants a follow-up discussion because even though you touched on it, you talked about using GG and tocotrienols and vitamin K together, but we didn’t even really get to dive into using it for people who are on statins or bisphosphonates. So I definitely want to follow up on that. I do have some questions that we like to ask every guest and I think I have the answers, but what are your top three supplements that you like to take, I should say, aside from tocotrienols and GG, what’s your other favorite?

Dr Barrie Tan: Yes, I have those two on I think besides tocotrienol and GG you make my answer better. I do take Designs for Health multivitamin. Okay, it’s called Primal Multi.

Evelyne: I love that one.

Dr Barrie Tan: Yeah. And I tell you the reason why I take. I want to take a multi from different sources, but many multivitamin have a fair amount of alpha tocopherol and I don’t want it in. So about three, four years ago I was able to convince Designs for Health you got to get the alpha tocopherol out and put instead the vitamin E that is tocotrienol. They did. So if you look, there are other goodies in Primal Multi, but for that reason alone, I took Primal Multi mouth the other otherwise the other thing in the Multi is good. I also take CoQ10 because it’s good for my heart. And the other thing that I take, I seem to be in love with lipid nutrient. I also take omega-3. I do eat fish, I eat seafood, but it’s probably not enough. So I take approximately one gram of omega-3.

I choose to make sure that the EPA and DHA, so usually each pill soft gel may have 500 milligram. So if I take one with lunch, one with dinner, that would be good. I know other people take much larger amount for me at least one gram as Omega-3. So that’s what I do. So I know one other question you would like to ask me would be. What is my favorite health practice? I know that it’s going to come, so I might as well answer that one. I know other people are great swimmer, athlete, skier. In another five, six months, I’ll be 70 years old, but I want to stay active. So I go walking. I typically walk now about 10,000 to 15,000 step. Yes it is cardiovascular and no, it is not a resistive exercise, but at least it gets my blood circulating. We have 30,000 miles of artery in the body. So when I walk approximately an hour a day sometime I split in two half hour the blood get going. That moving of the blood, many biochemistry is happening. So I think that’s a good thing. So that’s my health practice.

Evelyne: I love it. I love walking too. Walking’s the best for so many reasons and for mental health. The last one very quickly I think I might know the answer, but maybe there’s something else. What’s something that you’ve changed your mind about through all of your years of being in this field? I’m guessing it’s related to just maybe the ideas that you had about tocopherols and then discovering tocotrienols. But is there something else?

Dr Barrie Tan: To your last question, what have changed my mind? Yes. I won’t go on the less tocopherol thing. I do not take any supplementary tocopherol. I’ll do this. I would have less calcium and more vitamin K two. The FDA say that the minimum amount of calcium, 2.4 grams. What makes me think so naively? If I take 2,400 milligram of calcium, it would all go to the bone and that it would not litter in my artery. What makes me think that? I don’t like that when I pose the question to myself, I need MK four and I need vitamin D to shuttle the calcium to the bone. So therefore I will take less calcium. I believe that the amount of calcium I got from food is good enough from bone broth, from food that I eat, they have calcium from vegetable and take more things that would help my calcium to go to the bone. And the two that I know best that can help me in that area, Evelyne would be MK four, vitamin K two and vitamin D. So that, and I did not appreciate this as much before I do now. So I make sure that I would take vitamin K two and vitamin D and less calcium.

Evelyne: Thank you for sharing that. And I think we do need to schedule a follow-up conversation because there are so many more questions that I would love to go into and cover. So Barrie, thank you so much for this conversation today, for your contributions to our field for advancing the knowledge in this field and also all the research you’ve done and clearly so much time, energy, money that you’ve invested and to do it all with so much passion and your contagious enthusiasm is very inspiring. So thank you.

Dr Barrie Tan: Wow. Thank you so much for having me. And then for me, what is life when all you want to sit down there is to do things and just make money? I somehow was never raised like that. However, if you can make a living and somehow you can do something that can better people’s health, what’s there not to like my mother-in-law used to tell me. So this is something I passionately want to give. So to the extent that I have my mind, my energy with me, I’ll continue to do work on tocotrienol, GG and also COQ10. So those are the three things I do. If you come to my website, you only contain those three things. So thank you very much. Have a wonderful weekend and blessing to all. Stay well.

Evelyne: Thank you, Barrie. Thank you for tuning into Conversations for Health. Check out the show notes for any resources we shared from our conversation and please share this podcast with your colleagues follow rate or leave a review wherever you listen to this podcast. And thank you for designing a well world with us.

Voiceover: This is Conversations for Health with Evelyne Lambrecht, dedicated to engaging discussions with industry experts, exploring evidence-based, cutting edge research and practical tips.

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