Friday, August 31, 2012

Egg-citing News by Jerry Brainum

While many self-styled experts continue to decry eating eggs, research shows that eggs are not only one of the best protein sources but also among the most beneficial from a health standpoint. One recent study found that eating a low-carb diet boosted high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol—but only in those whose diet included eggs. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is thought to offer protective effects against the onset of cardiovascular disease through helping to remove excess cholesterol in the blood. Interestingly, it was the higher cholesterol content of the eggs that was thought to be the active factor in elevating HDL. Those who ate a low-carb diet without eggs showed no rise in HDL.
      The same researchers recently published a follow-up study. The objective was to observe the effects of eggs and a low-carb diet on markers of inflammation. The subjects were 28 men, 15 of whom ate three eggs daily and 13 who ate no eggs. Results: Those who ate the eggs had a 21 percent increase in levels of adiponectin, a substance released by fat cells. Adiponectin is a polypeptide, or protein-based, hormone containing a string of 244 amino acids. It provides potent anti-inflammatory effects and is often low in those with higher bodyfat levels. Adiponectin favors the loss of excess fat and is positively associated with increased insulin sensitivity. Those in the egg group also showed lower levels of C-reactive protein, a general marker of inflammation. The authors suggest that the effect may have been due to the high lutein content in eggs. Lutein is an antioxidant most often associated with eye health, but it also exerts overall antioxidant activity. An important point here is that the protective factors are found only in the yolks, and those who eat only egg whites—like bodybuilders—are making a huge mistake.
        Another recent study featured 3,000 adult women and found that those with the highest intake of choline—an average of 455 milligrams daily, mostly from eggs—showed a 24 percent decreased risk of breast cancer. That followed a 2003 study from Harvard, which found that women who ate more eggs, vegetable fat and fiber during adolescence had a lower risk of developing breast cancer as adults. Eating one egg a day led to an 18 percent reduced risk of breast cancer in the women. Another recent study found that eating soy foods also offered breast cancer protection, but again, only if they were eaten during adolescence. A Chinese study published in 2005 found that women who reported eating at least six eggs per week showed a 44 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who ate two or fewer eggs weekly. Studies show that only 10 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of choline (550 milligrams a day for men; 425 for women). One egg supplies 125.5 grams of choline—only in the yolk.
      Besides helping to prevent breast cancer, choline also helps to prevent birth defects, such as spina bifida; improves memory because it is a precursor of acetylcholine, a major brain neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning; and helps reduce cardiovascular disease by acting as a methyl donor to lower elevated blood homocysteine, a toxic by-product of the metabolism of the amino acid methionine.
In years past, choline was touted as a fat burner. In fact, choline is not directly involved in the oxidation, or burning, of fats. It is, however, required by the liver to synthesize lipoproteins, which transport fats in the blood. One sign of a choline deficiency is an increase of fat in the liver, considered an early sign of liver failure.
      One recent study, however, suggests that taking excess choline could present problems. It examined the effects of choline and its metabolite, betaine, in 7,074 men and women in two age groups (47 to 49 and 71 to 74). The study found that higher amounts of choline in the blood were associated with a greater prevalence of symptoms related to the metabolic syndrome—higher serum triglycerides, glucose, percent bodyfat and waist circumference. On the other hand, higher blood choline was also related to higher HDL and lower total cholesterol. The effect was thought to be linked to a disruption of an enzyme that’s involved in choline metabolism. A confusing aspect of the study was the finding that betaine, which is produced from choline, provided nothing but benefical effects. That’s likely related to the fact that betaine acts as a methyl donor to reduce elevated homocysteine.

Ratliff, J.C., et al. (2008). Eggs modulate the inflammatory response to carbohydrate-restricted diets in overweight men. Nutr Metabol. 5:6.
Xu, X., et al. (2008). Choline metabolism and risk of breast cancer in a population-based study. FASEB. 22(6):2045-52.
Konstantinova, S.V., et al. (2008). Divergent associations of plasma choline and betaine with components of metabolic syndrome in middle age and elderly men and women. J Nutr. 138:914-20.

©,2012, Jerry Brainum.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Why Interval Training Is Best by Jerry Brainum

      Most studies that have examined what happens when you combine aerobics and weight training show that it defeats the purpose of lifting. Doing aerobics promotes changes that increase oxygen use and the use of fat as fuel. Weight training promotes increased muscle protein synthesis. Doing aerobics ups the body’s production of such substances as AMPK, which leads to greater fat use at the expense of muscle protein synthesis.
     Does that mean aerobics is taboo for anyone interested in building muscle? No: There are simple ways to overcome the incompatibility. Do your aerobics at a different time—or on a different day.
The most effective approach is to use interval training, a type of aerobics that includes some anaerobic work. You alternate moderate and high levels of intensity in one training session. The net effect is that you can get all of the considerable cardiovascular benefits of traditional steady-state aerobic training with increased fat oxidation—and in less training time than with traditional aerobics.
     The effectiveness of interval aerobic training is evident in the results of a recently published study that featured eight women, including moderately fit women, sedentary women who did no exercise and an active soccer player. All in their 20s, they trained every other day for two weeks, using a high-intensity interval workout done on stationary bikes: 10 sets of four-minute high-intensity bursts, using a level of intensity equal to 90 percent of their maximum oxygen intake, alternated with two-minute rest intervals between sets, in which they cycled at low intensity.
    The starting point of fitness made no difference in the results. The women showed an average increase of 36 percent more fat burned at the end of the study. Their cardiovascular fitness also rose by an impressive 13 percent.
     How to explain such rapid results? It turns out that interval training is particularly effective at boosting activity in the portion of cells where fat is burned and oxygen is used, the mitochondria. The study authors noted that the women showed signs of increased mitochondrial volume, as evidenced by a rise in enzymes associated with fat oxidation and oxygen use.
     The training also increased the activity of a protein that transports fatty acids into the cell, where the fat is oxidized. Even more impressive was that there was no significant loss of muscle glycogen, pointing to an almost exclusive use of fat as fuel during the exercise. The fat used during the exercise was likely derived from free fatty acids circulating in the blood, since levels of fat stored in muscle didn’t change. The authors suggest, however, that tapping into intramuscular fat may involve long-term adaptations that didn’t occur in the short-term study.
     Other studies of interval training have found an increase in enzymes required for fat oxidation of 10 to 35 percent after only two weeks. Studies that have compared interval to conventional long, slow moderate-intensity aerobics show interval training produces similar beneficial effects but with 90 percent less training volume. One study showed similar improvements with 2.5 hours a week of interval work compared with 10.5 hours a week of conventional aerobics.
     Unlike conventional aerobics, which increases resting metabolic rate only during actual exercise, interval training leads to a sustained rise in resting metabolic rate. That means you wind up burning more calories at rest, typically calories derived from fat stores. The only other type of exercise known to do that is weight training. The fact that weight training works mainly type 2, or fast-twitch, muscle fibers explains the rise in metabolism, since the repair of damaged fibers induced by weight training leads to biochemical changes that result in a higher resting metabolic rate. Intervals also tap into type 2 fibers during the high-intensity phase, explaining why that style of aerobics—unlike traditional aerobics—also results in a more sustained rise in resting metabolic rate. The slow phase of intervals shifts the focus to type 1, or slow-twitch, muscle fibers, which preferentially burn more fat than type 2 fibers.
     Add it all up, and it’s evident that interval training is ideal for bodybuilders. You get all the fat-burning and cardiovascular benefits associated with traditional steady-state aerobics without overtraining and muscle loss. Perhaps the best feature is that you get all the benefits in far less training time.

Want more evidence-based information on exercise science, nutrition and food supplements, fat-loss, ergogenic aids, and anti-aging research? Check out Applied Metabolics Newsletter at


©,2012, Jerry Brainum.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Beta-Alanine and Anabolism by Jerry Brainum

A number of studies, many of which have been reported here, demonstrate that using supplemental beta-alanine may boost gains in muscle size and strength. Beta-alanine acts as a substrate for the synthesis of carnosine in muscle. Carnosine is a dipeptide, composed of two bonded amino acids, histidine and beta-alanine. Muscle usually contains more than enough histidine, so the limiting factor is beta-alanine. Taking carnosine itself would not be effective, as it’s rapidly degraded by the enzyme carnosinase before it has a chance to enter muscle.
     Carnosine acts as a major intramuscular buffer. That means it neutralizes the excess acidity that builds up during high-intensity exercise. Studies show that regular intense training increases muscle carnosine. In fact, bodybuilders tend to have higher-than-normal muscle carnosine as a result of regular intense training. On the other hand, even experienced athletes who take extra beta-alanine get a boost in muscle carnosine as high as 64 percent over normal. Ingesting a dose range of 3.2-6.4 grams a day of beta alanine boosts levels of muscle carnosine by 42% and 61% respectively. In one study, taking a beta alanine supplement for 10 weeks boosted muscle carnosine by 80%.
     While many studies related to supplemental beta-alanine have used untrained subjects, a few have used more experienced subjects. One study, for example, found that giving beta-alanine for 10 weeks to experienced trainees led to a significant increase in workout volume on the squat and bench press. Because higher training volume is related to a greater release of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone, a new study tested the effects of supplemental beta-alanine in eight college-aged men with at least three years of training experience.1
      The men took beta-alanine for 30 days, getting 1.6 grams three times daily. Other subjects got a placebo, as the study featured a double-blind, randomized, crossover design, the gold standard of clinical research. Before and after using the beta-alanine, the subjects did six sets of 12 reps of barbell squats using a weight equal to 70 percent of their one-rep maximums. At the end of 30 days those in the beta-alanine group had increased their completed reps by 22 percent. Measurements of testosterone, growth hormone and cortisol showed no differences between the groups, indicating that while those hormones were affected by the exercise, beta-alanine had no discernible effect. No changes occurred in body mass or strength, but as the authors note, rapid gains don’t occur too often in advanced trainees, especially in only 30 days. Meanwhile, the fact that beta-alanine clearly increased training endurance shows that it may pump up training intensity, which is likely to increase gains in muscle size and strength over the long haul.
     Since beta alanine uses the same amino acid transport carrier as other amino acids, including taurine, glycine, and GABA, some have expressed concern that beta alanine may competitively inhibit the uptake of these other amino acids. In reality, however, this never occurs. The doses of beta alanine capable of causing such inhibition are far more then is ever ingested from supplements.
     The other problem with beta alanine is a side effect known as parathesia. This involves a tingling, slight burning sensation in the skin thought to occur from stimulation of superficial nerves by beta alanine. It lasts about an hour and is comparable to the flush brought on after the oral ingestion of the B-complex vitamin, Niacin, and is equally harmless, although uncomfortable to some.There are two ways around this problem. One is to consume a one gram dose of beta alanine every three hours, until you've ingested a range of 3.2-6.4 grams.The other method involves ingesting a slow-release form of beta alanine, which releases smaller amounts over a greater time span. The flush effect seems to occur when doses higher than 10 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight are ingested.
    The final thing to consider about beta alanine is that it works best for high intensity training that involves shorter rest times. Such training produces higher levels of acidity in muscle, which is buffered by carnosine. Those who take longer rests between sets, such as 2-3 minutes, will get little or no benefit from beta alanine supplements, since the body's own buffering agents will lower acidity in that time frame.

Hoffman, J., et al. (2008). Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med.

©,2012, Jerry Brainum.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Another NO booster By Jerry Brainum

Supplements touted to increase nitric oxide seem to be popular among bodybuilders, judging from the number of companies selling them. The active ingredient in nearly all of them is the amino acid arginine, which is the immediate nutrient precursor of nitric oxide. Several other nutrients are also capable of boosting NO, however, including garlic, apple antioxidants and the isoflavone genistein, found in soy. In fact, most antioxidant nutrients will boost NO because increased oxidation blunts NO release.
     A recent study disclosed another supplement capable of boosting NO release, glycine-propionyl-L-carnitine. It’s known as an “amino” carnitine, since it’s a bonded form of L-carnitine and the amino acid glycine. While L-carnitine has several functions in the body, it’s best known for shuttling fat into the portion of cells known as mitochondria. Fat is burned, or oxidized, in mitochondria in a process called beta-oxidation. Carnitine is essential for this process.
     Glycine-propionyl-L-carnitine is a specialized form of carnitine, and it’s particularly beneficial for heart function. The heart preferably uses fat as an energy source, and GPLC is used therapeutically to treat heart failure and poor blood circulation. In Europe it’s used as a drug for that purpose. Other studies show that GPLC has more of an affinity for muscle than other forms of L-carnitine. These studies suggest that using GPLC may boost exercise efficiency by lowering lactic acid and using fat more efficiently as an energy source.
     In the new study, 15 experienced weight-trained men were provided 4.5 grams a day of either GPLC or a placebo. The subjects were also given carbohydrates to promote insulin release, since insulin fuels carnitine uptake into tissues. They were then exposed to an ischemia-reperfusion routine by means of a blood pressure cuff. Inflating the cuff stops blood flow; releasing it produces a higher-than-usual blood flow, or reperfusion. It’s difficult to measure NO because it’s an ephemeral gas that rapidly disappears. Products of NO metabolism, however, such as nitrates and nitrites, can be measured in blood to determine NO activity, and that’s what the researchers did here.
      Under normal circumstances, NO release occurs with turbulent blood flow, such as that induced by exercise. It is synthesized and released in the endothelium, or lining of blood vessels. In that manner, NO inhibits the clumping of blood platelets and expands blood vessel diameter. The net effect is increased blood flow and, in the case of bodybuilding exercise, increased muscle pump and delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscle.
    The study showed that NO release was significantly higher in those who took the GPLC supplement than it was in those who took the placebo. The authors noted that there are always “nonresponders,” who get no apparent effect from any supplement. For example, 30 percent of creatine users get no apparent benefits, usually those who eat a lot of red meat, a rich natural source of creatine.
     As to how GPLC works in relation to NO, the authors weren’t sure. One theory is that GPLC inhibits an oxidative enzyme that rapidly degrades NO because of an increase in free radicals. Another theory is that GPLC augments the activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme in the blood vessel walls that produces NO from arginine.
      GPLC may be a useful adjunct to NO supplements, since it independently augments NO release and has no known side effects. It also provides other benefits, such as increased muscle and heart efficiency, along with lower lactic acid production during intense exercise. In that sense, it would be complementary with beta-alanine, mainly used to control higher acidity levels produced during exercise. Anecdotal reports suggest that GLPC may blunt some of the negative side effects linked to ketosis, experienced by many who follow low-carbohydrate diets. GLPC also helps maintain androgen cell receptors, which increases the anabolic efficiency of testosterone. In fact, some preliminary studies suggest that GLPC may be of use in treating male impotence.

Bloomer, R.J., et al. (2007). Glycine propionyl-L-Carnitine increases plasma nitrate/nitrite in resistance-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 4:22.

©,2012, Jerry Brainum.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Beyond Vitamin E by Jerry Brainum

New Findings On the Controversial Nutrient

     Recent reports in the popular media have suggested that those who take vitamin E and other antioxidants may be harming themselves. In fact, the most recent quoted studies conclude that vitamin E may cause premature death. As a result of such reports, many wonder about the wisdom of using not only vitamin E supplements but vitamins and minerals in general. Bodybuilders may find this particularly troubling, since many of their supplements contain extra vitamins.

     How can something as natural as a vitamin be so toxic? The truth is, it isn’t. A closer scrutiny of all these vitamin E studies shows that they had major flaws, rendering their findings completely wrong. For example, many of the studies were meta-analyses of previously published studies. You can easily prove anything you want by using the negative studies about a subject and ignoring the studies that show benefits. And that’s precisely what was done with the recent negative vitamin E studies. In addition, some of the studies used subjects who were near death, then gave the moribund patients vitamin E. Since many were past the point of no return in a health sense, the vitamins not only didn’t work but appeared to hasten their deaths—hence the misleading headlines.

     Still another problem with the recent studies about vitamin E is that in most cases only one form of vitamin E—alpha tocopherol—was used. Alpha tocopherol is considered the most potent form of vitamin E, but it is only one of eight forms. All forms exist in nature, and like other nutrients they work best together. In fact, some members of the vitamin E family that aren’t included in most food supplements go well beyond the health benefits offered by alpha tocopherol alone.

Man Does Not Live by Alpha Alone

     In 1922, researchers found that without vitamin E rats couldn’t reproduce. That link to reproduction branded vitamin E a “sex vitamin,” despite the connection between the nutrient and sex being tenuous at best. Other scientists isolated vitamin E from wheat germ in 1936 and figured out its chemical structure. The word tocopherol is from the Greek words tokos and pherein, and the two words combined translate into “to bear and bring forth offspring,” a reference to the initial discovery that rats deprived of tocopherol suffer spontaneous abortion.

     The vitamin E complex consists of four tocopherol forms: alpha, beta, gamma and delta, with the differences being minor structural changes. Also included in the complex are tocotrienols, which have four members as well: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. The tocotrienols have a slightly different structure in the tail sequence that gives them some highly beneficial properties.

      As noted earlier, some recent studies showed that alpha tocopherol, which is what most people think of when they consider vitamin E, provides surprisingly little cardiovascular protection. Yet other studies show that when consumed in food, vitamin E appears to offer potent cardiovascular protection. Why would getting the same nutrient in food prove superior to taking it in supplemental form? The answer is that foods contain the entire vitamin E complex.

That touches on an ongoing controversy: whether the natural or synthetic form is superior. While many scientists suggest that the synthetic version is just as potent as the natural, other research shows that natural vitamin E is clearly more potent and that it takes twice as much of the synthetic version to equal the effects of the natural version.

      Vitamin E’s history is similar to that of whey protein. For years whey was considered a waste product of dairy production and was discarded. Eventually, the great nutritional properties of whey became evident, and the picture changed dramatically. After the discovery of vitamin E, it became known that soybean oil was a rich source of alpha tocopherol. The biggest producer of soybean oil was the Eastman Kodak company, which used it in photo processing. Someone at the company realized that they could extract alpha tocopherol from the soybean oil waste products and then sell it in bulk to vitamin companies. To this day a division of Eastman Kodak is still the largest supplier of natural vitamin E.

       But that form of vitamin E isn’t as natural as many think. The soybean oil is processed by a chemical methylation technique, extracting only the alpha tocopherol form. The other vitamin E forms are discarded, even though they are found naturally in the soy oil. So even “natural” alpha tocopherol isn’t truly natural, since it doesn’t exist in an isolated form in nature.1

       The two most common forms of vitamin E found in food are alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol. The predominant of the two is gamma tocopherol, since the best sources of natural vitamin E are various vegetable oils, all of which contain larger amounts of gamma tocopherol than alpha tocopherol. The tocopherols are there for a good reason. Vegetable oils are polyunsaturated fats, which means they are highly prone to oxidation and rancidity. Tocopherols prevent that. Note that natural oils contain the entire vitamin E complex. If they only contained alpha tocopherol, they would turn rancid because, when found alone in oils, alpha tocopherol becomes a pro-oxidant.

     Those who take fish oil supplements should consider that effect. Most commercial fish oil supplements, whether liquid or capsules, contain only alpha tocopherol. To prevent fat oxidation in the oil, however, would require the presence of other tocopherols besides just alpha tocopherol, such as gamma and delta tocopherols. Indeed, some studies have tested fish oil supplements and found them to be oxidized. Now you know why.

      While alpha tocopherol is considered the most potent antioxidant of the tocopherols, it’s ineffective against some types of free radicals, which are by-products of oxygen metabolism that attack fatty structures in the body, such as cellular membranes. Gamma tocopherol, unlike the alpha version, defuses one of the most potent free radicals, peroxynitrate, and other nitrogen species that are linked to disease. Peroxynitrate is simply a combination of nitric oxide and the hydrogen peroxide that’s produced during normal metabolism.

      Nitric oxide precursor supplements, usually based on the amino acid arginine, are popular among bodybuilders. On the other hand, NO itself is a free radical, which is harmless unless it meets up with hydrogen peroxide in the body. Thus, those who take NO-producing supplements would be well advised to also use a supplement containing either mixed tocopherols or gamma tocopherol.

     Many free radicals are produced as a result of the metabolism of certain minerals, such as copper and iron. They are highly destructive, and are linked to various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. While alpha tocopherol has little effect on those mineral-associated free radicals, gamma and delta tocopherols attach to them and thus render them harmless.

     The other tocopherols also have an anti-inflammatory effect.2 Inflammation is now known to be the cornerstone of most serious diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, while some initial inflammation is required for muscular growth, extended inflammation blunts muscular recovery after training. That’s why antioxidants are often suggested for bodybuilders.

     While the anti-inflammatory power of alpha tocopherol is zilch, gamma tocopherol shows potent effects in that regard.3 It inhibits inflammatory eicosanoids made from dietary fat and also inhibits the same enzyme, COX-2, that is blocked by popular analgesic drugs used to treat arthritis and other types of chronic pain. Unlike the drugs, however, using gamma tocopherol won’t also increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular side effects. Since high levels of COX-2 are linked to various types of cancer, such as colon cancer, gamma tocopherol may offer preventive effects. Alpha tocopherol is useless in that area.

Diabetics experience low-level inflammation in the pancreas, which can destroy the beta cells that produce insulin, thus worsening the disease. Studies show that gamma and delta tocopherols block that inflammatory effect. 

     An increase in the density of vascular smooth muscle cells is linked to cardiovascular disease. While alpha tocopherol does inhibit that, taking the other tocopherols increases the potency significantly and thus offers more protection. In addition, mixed tocopherols are far more potent than the alpha variety alone in preventing platelets from sticking to each other in the blood.4 The clot that forms when this happens is often the immediate cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

     One of the most exciting findings about gamma tocopherol occurred in a study of 20,000 men. It found a protective effect of gamma tocopherol against prostate cancer, an effect not offered by alpha tocopherol. Men with the highest level of gamma tocopherol were 80 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men with the lowest levels. Gamma tocopherol inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells far more than does alpha tocopherol. In addition, gamma tocopherol seems to prevent the cells from turning into cancer in the first place.

     Reactive nitrogen species, a form of free radicals, are implicated in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The brains of those who suffer from that dreaded disease show higher levels of nitrates, which are linked to brain destruction.5 Only gamma tocopherol protects against that internal onslaught in the brain, not alpha tocopherol.

     Bodybuilders would also be interested in another effect of gamma tocopherol. The primary breakdown product of the gamma form acts as a natural diuretic that promotes the excretion of sodium, thus alleviating water retention. From a health standpoint, that means less risk of high blood pressure. From a bodybuilding vantage, it means more muscular definition. Gamma tocopherol helps prevent high blood pressure thanks to its ability to protect nitric oxide in the blood from oxidation. NO dilates blood vessels, leading to a greater muscular pump, along with the notable “side effect” of lower resting blood pressure.

     The primary tocopherol blood carrier protein produced in the liver has a preference for alpha tocopherol over the other tocopherols (only 9 percent of gamma tocopherol is carried in that manner). That leads the other forms of vitamin E to be broken down much more quickly than alpha tocopherol. On the other hand, more recent investigations show that gamma tocopherol tends to concentrate in tissues such as fat, muscle and skin.

      One problem with taking large doses of alpha tocopherol (more than 100 units a day) is that the more alpha tocopherol you take in, the more gamma tocopherol is rapidly excreted. Conversely, taking in larger amounts of gamma tocopherol does the same thing to alpha tocopherol—more rapid excretion.6 The answer may be to use either a mixed, balanced blend of tocopherols or to take gamma tocopherol and alpha tocopherol supplements at different times. Sesamin, a lignan from sesame seeds, prevents the premature breakdown of gamma tocopherol, and some specific gamma-E, or mixed-tocopherol, supplements contain sesamin for that reason. On the other hand, rat studies show that combining sesamin with gamma E also blocks the production of the beneficial diuretic breakdown product of gamma tocopherol.

     Not all scientists think that consuming a lot of gamma tocopherol is a good idea. For example, Jiyan Ma, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry at Ohio State University, published a study that involved exposing isolated brain cells taken from mice to high levels of end products of the metabolism of alpha and gamma tocopherols called quinones. The gamma tocopherol quinone led to cellular destruction by preventing an essential process called protein folding while alpha tocopherol quinones did not have that toxic effect. The experiment was also repeated with kidney cells from monkeys and on skin cells from mice, with similar results.

     Commenting on the results of the study, Ma said, “We think that gamma tocopherol may have this kind of damaging effect on nearly every cell in the body.” But once again, this study involved isolated cells taken from animals, not humans. In addition, the researchers looked at the activity of only alpha and gamma tocopherol by-products—not the actual nutrients. There is no human evidence that the toxic metabolite in question—gamma tocopherol quinone—accumulates or even exists in human cells. In fact, in the human body, half of ingested gamma tocopherol is converted into gamma-CEHC, the metabolite of gamma tocopherol that offers diuretic effects, and is excreted. In nature antioxidants work as a team, preventing toxic reactions that may develop from the normal metabolism. 

      The tocotrienols are even rarer than gamma tocopherol, though specific supplements, usually based on a palm or rice bran oil, are available. The tocotrienols have properties not offered by other members of the vitamin E complex.7 For example, only tocotrienols inhibit the enzyme in the liver that synthesizes cholesterol.8 Inhibiting that enzyme would lower blood cholesterol levels, and the most popular drugs prescribed to treat cardiovascular disease, statins, work in that manner. Tocotrienols may more effectively block the oxidation of low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood.9

Tocotrienols are distributed more evenly through the fatty membranes of cells, thus offering more protection than other members of the vitamin E family. Animal and cell studies show that tocotrienols alone may help prevent breast cancer.             

    They also prevent the destruction of neurons from overexcitation caused by large releases of glutamate in the brain.10 That happens during most strokes and accounts for the brain damage that often ensues. Tocotrienols reduce lipoprotein(a), which acts like low-density lipoprotein in accelerating cardiovascular disease, by an impressive 17 percent. Alpha tocopherol doesn’t affect lipo (a); in fact, most nutrients—other than niacin in large doses—don’t help in that regard.

     It’s clear that man does not live by alpha tocopherol alone, indicating once again that you cannot improve on the inherent wisdom of nature. Those wanting the complete health benefits offered by vitamin E need to take the entire complex, not just alpha tocopherol.


1 Saldeen, K. ,et al. (2005). Importance of tocopherols beyond a-tocopherol: evidence from animal and human studies. Nut Res. 25:877-889.

2 Jiang, Q., et al. (2001). Gamma-tocopherol, the major form of vitamin E in the US diet, deserves more attention. Am J Clin Nutr. 74:714-22.

3 Jiang, Q., et al. (2000). Gamma-tocopherol and its major metabolite, in contrast to alpha-tocopherol, inhibit cyclooxygenase activity in macrophages and epithelial cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 97:11494-9

4 Liu, M. , et al. (2003). Mixed tocopherols inhibit platelet aggregation in humans: potential mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr. 77:700-6.

5 Williamson, K.S., et al. (2002). The nitration product 5-nitro-gamma tocopherol is increased in the Alzheimer brain. Nitric Oxide. 6:221-227.

6  Yoshikawa, S., et al. (2005). The effect of gamma tocopherol administration on alpha tocopherol levels and metabolism in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr. In press.

7 Theriault, A., et al. (1999). Tocotrienol: a review of therapeutic effects. Clin Biochem. 32:309-19.

8 Black, T.M., et al. (2000). Palm tocotrienols protect apo+E mice from diet-induced atheroma formulation. J Nutr. 130:2420-26.

9 Qureshi, A.A., et al. (1997). Novel tocotrienols of rice bran modulate cardiovascular disease risk parameters of hypercholesterolemic humans. Nutr Biochem. 8:290-98.

10 Packer, L., et al. (2001). Molecular aspects of a-tocotrienol antioxidant and cell signaling. J Nutr. 131:369S-373S.

©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.   

Have you been ripped off  by supplement makers whose products don’t work as advertised? Want to know the truth about them? Check out Jerry Brainum's book Natural Anabolics, available at


The Applied Ergogenics blog is a collection of articles written and published by Jerry Brainum over the past 20 years. These articles have appeared in Muscle and Fitness, Ironman, and other magazines. Many of the posts on the blog are original articles, having appeared here for the first time. For Jerry’s most recent articles, which are far more in depth than anything that appears on this blog site, please subscribe to his Applied Metabolics Newsletter, at This newsletter, which is more correctly referred to as a monthly e-book, since its average length is 35 to 40 pages, contains the latest findings about nutrition, exercise science, fat-loss, anti-aging, ergogenic aids, food supplements, and other topics. For 33 cents a day you get the benefit of Jerry’s 53 years of writing and intense study of all matters pertaining to fitness,health, bodybuilding, and disease prevention.


See Jerry's book at


Want more evidence-based information on exercise science, nutrition and food supplements, ergogenic aids, and anti-aging research? Check out Applied Metabolics Newsletter at