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Doctor reviewing knee joint xrays after patietnt took tocotrienols

Tocotrienols to Support Bone Health

Preclinical studies show that tocotrienols could promote formation of cells that build new bone to help restore healthy balance to the bone remodeling process.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in July 2023. Written by: Laurie Mathena.

With aging, bone health comes under continual attack.

In a condition like osteoporosis, weak and brittle bones increase the risk of falls and fractures.1 Fragility fractures in the elderly are associated with increased mortality rates.2,3

Those stricken with osteoarthritis can experience swelling and erosion of joint cartilage that may lead to bone erosion and joint deformity, along with pain, stiffness, and disability.4,5

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease that causes pain, damage, and disfigurement of peripheral joints.6

All these conditions contribute to chronic disease burdens that impact quality of life.

Researchers have investigated a form of vitamin E called tocotrienols, which is found in various plant oils. Published findings indicate that tocotrienols could help combat destructive joint processes5,7-10 and potentially help prevent bone loss.11,12

Bone Remodeling

Healthy bones are in a constant state of repair and maintenance. This process is called bone remodeling.

Optimal bone remodeling requires a balance of osteoclasts (cells that break down older bone tissue—called bone resorption) and osteoblasts (cells that help form new bone). If the balance becomes tipped in favor of osteoclasts, it gradually leads to cartilage and bone destruction.13,14

This imbalance has been implicated in the development of osteoporosis and arthritis. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are notable contributors to irregular bone remodeling and contribute to this imbalance.14

Research has shown that tocotrienols may help combat many of the bone-destructive processes.12


Osteoporosis occurs as bone mineral density and bone mass significantly decrease.

This leads to reduced bone strength and increased fracture risk.

Osteoporotic bones become so fragile that fractures can occur spontaneously or as a result of a minor fall or even normal stresses such as bending and lifting.1

Preventing fractures is of vital importance, as not only can they cause other medical problems, but fractures in elderly are also associated with increased mortality rates.2,3

Osteoporosis involves an imbalance between bone buildup and bone breakdown.

Tocotrienols work in several ways to promote bone density and inhibit bone loss, which suggests they may potentially be beneficial in the fight against osteoporosis.

Preclinical studies have shown that tocotrienols:14

  • Increase bone mineralization, a process essential for forming strong, hard bones;
  • Promote formation of bone- building osteoblasts,
  • Suppress formation and development of bone-resorbing osteoclasts,
  • Reduce oxidative stress and inflammation by downregulating pro-inflammatory cytokines.

In animal models of osteoporosis, tocotrienol intake improves biomarkers of bone formation and bone strength.14

In animal model studies of postmenopausal osteoporotic rats, tocotrienol supplementation was found to prevent bone loss and to promote fracture healing.8,9

A systemic review of preclinical studies suggested tocotrienols may potentially be useful for prevention and treatment of bone related diseases involving increased bone loss.12


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is partially caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints. Osteoarthritis typically affects weight-bearing joints and hands.

This disease is characterized by the loss of protective cartilage in joints.4 Osteoarthritis treatments generally aim to reduce load (losing weight to remove stress from joints), improve joint support, rebuild cartilage, and relieve pain.

In an animal model study of osteoarthritis, tocotrienols showed joint protective effects by preventing cartilage degradation and leading to favorable changes in the joint histology and serum cartilage markers.5

In a clinical trial, patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomized to receive either 1.5 grams of oral glucosamine sulphate or 400 mg of palm oil rich in tocotrienols for six months. The symptoms were assessed using Western Ontario and McMaster Universities’ WOMAC osteoarthritis index and visual analogue scale (VAS).

After six months of treatment, both groups showed a significant improvement in WOMAC scale and significant reduction in the VAS score during standing and walking.15

This study suggests that daily vitamin E may play a potential role in reducing symptoms of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. While tocotrienols were shown to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms in this human trial, additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the body’s joints. The immune attack on joints seen in rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation and damage to the tissue, which leads to pain and misshapen joints.6

One particular pro-inflammatory cytokine that has been shown to be involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis is interleukin-17, or IL-17.16 IL-17 stimulates the production of RANKL, a protein that enhances the production and activation of bone-resorbing osteoclasts.10

Cell studies have shown that tocotrienols help mitigate the bone-destructive processes that contribute to rheumatoid arthritis by:10,12

  1. Decreasing the production of RANKL by IL-17, and
  2. Preventing IL-17 from forming new osteoclasts.

Tocotrienols also decreased the differentiation of pro-inflammatory cells, called Th17 cells, in a recent cell study.10 This is significant because Th17 cells have been implicated in the development of many autoimmune diseases and inflammation.17

Researchers concluded that tocotrienols could represent a novel therapeutic option for treating the bone-destructive processes in rheumatoid arthritis.10


A healthy balance of bone buildup and breakdown is important for strong, healthy bones.

An imbalance promotes bone destruction and is one of the factors that can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis.

By reducing the formation of cells that break down bone and promoting formation of cells that build new bone, tocotrienols may help restore healthy balance to the bone remodeling process.

This could potentially help combat the bone-destructive processes seen in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. However, further studies should be performed to clarify the mechanism of joint protection and its effects on functional parameters before firm conclusions are drawn.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


  1. Available at: Accessed April, 27, 2023.
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  3. Shen Y, Huang X, Wu J, et al. The Global Burden of Osteoporosis, Low Bone Mass, and Its Related Fracture in 204 Countries and Territories, 1990-2019. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022;13:882241.
  4. Available at:,underlying%20bone%20begins%20to%20change. Accessed April, 27, 2023.
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