A type of vitamin E obtained from rice appears to melt away cholesterol and may also combat cancer, according to scientists.
In tests, total cholesterol levels in rats given the supplement, known as TRF, fell by 42%. An even bigger drop of up to 62% was seen in levels of "bad" cholesterol. A small clinical trial has indicated TRF can also reduce cholesterol levels in humans.
In addition, other animal research suggests the vitamin can fight liver cancer.
TRF, or tocotrienol-rich fraction, is obtained from barley, oats, palm and rice. "Vitamin E, which has been widely studied for its health benefits, consists of both tocopherols and tocotrienols," noted research leader Dr. Mohammad Minhajuddin, from the University of Rochester in New York.
"Much research has focused on the tocopherols derived from corn, wheat and soybean, but the tocotrienols seem to have greater antioxidant properties and are becoming more noteworthy in scientific research."
The best TRF, he found, comes from rice bran oil, which is contained in the outer husks of rice grains. It is thought to inhibit the activity of an enzyme involved in cholesterol biosynthesis.
The new findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.
Minhajuddin has preliminary data from a study conducted in his home country of India looking at the effect of TRF on humans. Five healthy volunteers with cholesterol levels in the normal range were given low-dose capsules of TRF each day for four weeks. They saw their cholesterol drop by 10%, with a 26% decline in LDL levels.
Previous animal research by Minhajuddin has shown TRF clears toxic substances from the liver and can reduce or stabilize liver tumors.