MGU 406 | Vitamin E


If you are suffering from chronic diseases, taking Vitamin E or Annatto Tocotrienol may be a good answer to that. It was discovered by Dr. Barrie Tan, and what he found was just amazing. Join Whitney Lauritsen as she talks to this brilliant man about Vitamin E’s benefits for skin and brain health. Dr. Barrie’s goal is to help people with chronic conditions, especially the elderly. He believes he can treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and other serious illnesses using his groundbreaking scientific discovery. He also explains the impact of muscle mass on quality of life, his tremendous love for nature, and why he has so much hope for the brain. This episode covers a unique topic of nutrition, which is rarely covered on the show. Get ready for a science lesson, and enjoy it because Dr. Barrie’s passion is contagious!

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Annatto Tocotrienol: The Benefits Of Vitamin E With Dr. Barrie Tan

In this episode, I have a guest I’m interested in speaking with because he represents something that I don’t think I have covered much on this show with Dr. Barrie Tan. He has so much background in nutrition, in understanding science, how our bodies work and what benefits our bodies. He asked me before we started the episode how often I cover nutrition.

I said, “It’s been a while because I have been focused so much on the emotional sides of our health, the mental health side of things.” It’s so refreshing to have you here, Dr. Barrie because, first of all, your passion for what you do is contagious. I noticed that before I even met you, just through your website. It comes through with, I don’t know if it’s the photos or the colors you use on there.

There’s so much about what you do that makes me interested in it too. When I first learned about you, the focus was around your knowledge on vitamin E and I thought, “How do I make vitamin E interesting?” I don’t need to make it interesting because you make it interesting by talking about it. I know that you also have knowledge in your cancer research, in fatty liver disease and high cholesterol, and chronic conditions like that. I’m curious from my understanding, does vitamin E touch all of those things or are they separate areas of your work?

First, thank you for inviting me. I hope that this would be an enlightening time for you and I as well as for your faithful readers that follow you like that. You asked the question, vitamin E. Vitamin E, and some other compounds in nature are even more complicated. Vitamin E has certain nuances but is not difficult to understand. Vitamin E is two classes of compounds. The one is called tocopherol.

If you have your cereal in the morning, you look on the nutritional panel. You’ll see tocopherol on it. That would be the common one. If people know vitamin E, that would be vitamin E compound. The other one would be a mouthful of a word called Tocotrienol. The trie means in the tail. It has three double bonds. I will show you a picture of an actual vitamin E molecule.

If I go closer to the screen, you can see where my finger is. It’s got a double bond here where my pinky is and where the other one is close to my mouth. There’s another double bond there. There are three double bonds on the tail. If I go off-screen, that’s the antioxidant part, how this oxygen here protects free radicals particularly protecting fat. That’s a very short understanding of what vitamin E is known as.

It protects fat. It protects fat from going bad, going rants like that. They are tocopherol and tocotrienol. Tocopherol has been known for some 50 years before tocotrienol. It captures most people’s imagination so that in case, most of the audience these days are well-read because of the internet. You probably read that in the late-1990s and early 2000s that tocopherol fail. It looked like it may even cause women to have breast cancer and mentor prostate cancer.

Vitamin E protects fat from going bad. Click To Tweet

If you go back, you still see it. That is Harvard and Boston VA Hospital study. A huge study. A health professional study. In those studies, they only use alpha-tocopherol. The most common alpha-tocopherol. That’s the background. I thought that my tocotrienol will be like a baby thrown out with the bath water because I was studying this while I started my career at the University of Massachusetts as an assistant professor first in chemistry then I moved on to food science and nutrition.

Fortunately, I persisted and tocotrienol yield the fruits of benefits that you mentioned early on in the chronic condition. Be thrilled to talk about all of these parts but basically, vitamin E is tocopherol and tocotrienol. Tocopherol is first known in 1922, 100 years ago. Tocotrienol is about 50 years after.

I started my career in 1982 on tocotrienol and from 1982 to now is quite a number of decades. I have stayed with this compound. Eccentrically sometimes and somewhat lonely because it’s difficult for you to talk to love something of human nature. If it’s some genetic disease and some very rare thing gets less and lesser. When you talk about an inanimate compound it cannot speak back. Very few people go there with you. Now, it had yielded fruits of benefits to people and I’m finding people have an interest and love for this compound that was not there before when I started. Great to look forward to this.

As I said, your love for this topic is so intriguing to me because I can’t relate to that. In terms of vitamin E, I have my loves for oddities. What you are mentioning about that lonely experience, for you doing this for many years. You must deeply enjoy it because to do anything for that length of time is impressive. To do it when it feels like you are the only one doing this. Maybe there are not a lot of people that get excited about it. I’m curious, what is it that makes it so exciting for you to dedicate so much of your life to this subject matter?

It’s a good one and sometimes, other show hosts forgot to ask me this then I forgot myself. When I remember, I tried to and I will put it in the simplest way I know. A lot of us have opened a textbook, even though we may not be scientists and you see a picture of a cell. The picture of a cell looks like a bean. Maybe a kidney bean or lima bean or something that looks like a bean shape. Inside the cell would be the nuclei.

They make you look like you and me look like me because they have all the DNA stuff in them. They had mitochondria. They make energy and all these other wonderful stuff contained inside the cell. In each of these cells, every person whether they are 120 pounds or 180 pounds, they contain 38 trillion cells. Thirty-eight trillion is a big number. It’s about 5,000 times the population of the earth. Does it give you some manageable? My son told me that the world population reached eight billion people. It’s about 5,000 times the population of the earth is the number of cells in one human body.

Let’s say the cell looks like my mouse here. If you look on the side here, that outside here, that is a cell wall. You need to have a cell wall for nutrients to go from the outside to go in the cell and then the ways generated inside the cell to go out. Another shorthand way to save it. For the cell to function properly, you must have a good gated community. The nutrient goes in and then it ways goes out in the simplest way I can tell you.

MGU 406 | Vitamin E

Vitamin E: For the cell to function properly, you must have a well-gated community where nutrients go in and wastes go out.


What is this cell wall? The cell wall is 80% fat. It’s got a phosphate group that likes water on the outside and the tail. Think of a picture of a sperm or a tadpole. The head sticks out in the water and the tail, which is very lipid oil soluble sticks in. You park it for a moment and you segue like this. We have all probably heard that there are three main food groups.

The US government tells us that protein, carbohydrates, and fat. I may add a fourth one, which would be nucleic acid. People don’t usually think about that because when we eat meat, we eat a lot of DNA material and nucleic acid is used for us to make our DNA. We replenish our RNA, DNA, and all this other wonderful stuff. Usually, we think about the other three, so you four groups. These four groups nucleic acid, protein, fat, and carbohydrate, of all four of them, they all can be oxidized.

Oxidation is a phrase we used when something goes bad. Often time the audience also is bewildered because everything people talk about is an antioxidant. They don’t know what this is. I’m going to cut to the chase to help people to understand in a simple way. We need oxygen to live. Without oxygen, we cannot live. We have to have it.

The only exception would be a plant. Plants need the opposite. We exhale carbon dioxide, they love carbon dioxide. When they take carbon dioxide, they release oxygen then we take the oxygen. I’m very grateful for plants. If plants cannot do that, I will run out of oxygen fast, so we have a house plan and outdoor plan and everything like that. As we need oxygen, approximately 1 in every 10,000 oxygen is going to go wacko.

That oxygen that goes wacko, scientists refer to that as an oxygen free radical. That means that it’s very active. It’s going to satisfy its activity and become not active again. That oxygen is going to look for the lowest-lying fruit to get itself not active again. The lowest line food fruit of the four food groups is fat. In other words, the first thing in your body to go bad would be your fat. In Massachusetts so many years ago, there will be the Minutemen. They are the first to go first. It will be like this.

Therefore, in my judgment, I don’t want any part of my body to go bad. We all understand that. Try to think of it, if DNA is messed up, I am in bad shape because the DNA is right in the nucleus. It is like in the holy of holy. By the time you get there then it’s in bad shape for me already. On the cell wall are all the fats. Therefore, a good signal for something to go bad is they go after the fat and the tocotrienol and vitamin E are right on the fat to protect them from not going back.

No one wants any part of their body to go bad. If your DNA is messed up, you will be in really bad shape. Click To Tweet

Therefore, you have a good functional gated community so that your cell will function properly. One last thing before I pass it on to you. Why does vitamin E do this and why not other antioxidants? In the 1980s, there was an Austrian professor. His last name is Esterbauer. Hermann Esterbauer is a very German-sounding name. He asked the question. In the cell wall that needs protection, what are other kinds of antioxidants that reside there?

I’m so grateful he did the experiment. When he did, read to this carefully. 90% or more than 90% of the antioxidant on the cell wall that I spend so much time explaining to you, they are vitamin E molecules. Less than 10% of those antioxidants, there would be keratins like beta-keratins and lycopene or coenzyme Q10, which our body makes.

After that, I got it. That’s my passion because you asked me the original question, why? My original passion was, “If greater than 90% of it protects me from doing well and they look like vitamin E molecules. I got to stick around and study this and figure out how this would help me.” That’s it. That passion has never gone away and to this day, it still served me good.

In another year, I will get older. I hope that will give me a good brain so that I would not suffer from dementia. I don’t have any physical illness. I’m probably the only living person walking that has taken tocotrienol longer than anybody else like that but so far, it has blessed my life. I did all these wonderful studies and it looked like when you ask me, I can tell you the different functions it can do. Sorry, it is a long way to tell the story of why I got into this study.

I love listening to your stories and I have a few different directions. I can’t wait to go in. The first one is when you are talking about brain health too and fat, I have a limited understanding of the things that you are so knowledgeable about, which is why I’m so thrilled to have you here. I barely understand vitamin E. I’m already getting a better idea through what you described.

I remember vitamin E is something for the skin. That’s how it was explained to me as a benefit but you are telling me so many other benefits. One that I’m especially curious about is the impact it has on brain health and my knowledge of how fat’s important for brain health. I imagine that that’s all interconnected, the vitamin E and the fat.

Let me answer briefly on brain health and skin health. The skin health thing is simple because your eyes can see the skin. When you put vitamin E on the skin, it dermatologically topically goes into the skin and it will still go on the cell wall. The skin cell will still look like a cell. It just goes on the cell wall and it makes the skin cell supple.

What the audience sees when they apply on is the hand feels soft and supple. It acts as an antioxidant on the skin. That’s earlier days why people felt their skin was healthy and is used in many aspects that people use on the skin including using tocotrienol on skin. The brain health thing is the more recent advent. We and others have done experiments.

Other people have done experiments and it’s a very good experiment. I will tell the experiment that we did. When I say we, we have other researchers doing it at the University of Texas. An audience can go on the internet to google this. It’s called a Moris Maze. It is about 1 meter, 1 yard, a circular thing. Think of a pool. You blow and the water move in one direction and you have a rat. The rat will swim against the current. They never swim with the current. They swim against the current. Initially, this was invented by somebody called Moris. Probably for psychology experiments.

Now, you have a circular pool only about 1 meter in diameter. The rat will swim against the current. The rat doesn’t want to swim to exhaustion and drown. They are looking for something to get out of the water. You put a Flexi Glass, which is the same color as the water. You can’t see the Flexi Glass. You will stick something on the wall, a different color, and eventually, you change the color. You can do all kinds of experiments.

Eventually, you put a color that indicates that you recognize that color. You will recognize it as a Flexi Glass about an inch below the water then you train the rat. For the one that is in a control group, which means you did not give them any tocotrienol vitamin E. They are going to swim and it takes them maybe five weeks of training then they figure it out.

If you give them a tocotrienol vitamin E, they will take about two weeks to figure it out. If you give them another comp, if you got time to do the latter. Using geranylgeraniol GG takes about 2.2 weeks, so they figure it out. From there, we judge that. Given supplemental vitamin E and tocotrienol, they improve their memory and their recognition of how to find the place.

This and some other experiments other people have done, give me hope. Why do I have so much hope in the brain? The brain is one of the fattiest organs in the human body. Remember I said before, it’s the easiest one to get oxidized. If vitamin E goes to the brain, you have the best chance to protect the brain from oxidative damage. As we grow older, when we talk about conditions like Alzheimer, Parkinsonian, and Huntington’s disease, we have not done all the studies that can be done but enough to mix suggested that tocotrienol can help to protect or prolong our ability from losing memory as we age.

The brain is one of the fattiest organs in the body and the easiest one to get oxidized. Click To Tweet

Deeply fascinating and I can see more why you have been doing this work for so long because there’s so much to learn to discover and research. I want to go back a little bit because something you said earlier triggered a question. It might take me a moment to get there because there are a few elements here.

You were mentioning the power of plants which I’m very passionate about plants too. My passion for that is growing as I understand the benefits. Not just to eat but to be around them. I read a wonderful book, I think it was called The Nature Fix that did all these studies on how beneficial nature is for our physical and mental health.

One thing that I was thrilled about is at the end of the book, it talked about Singapore, which I had the honor to visit. That ties into you because I know you were born and raised in Malaysia, which is North of Singapore. Now that I have a general understanding of that part of the world and see how much they prioritize plants, how Singapore is built basically around plants.

They have added so many plants to that city to take in all of its benefits of it. I’m curious about what Malaysia is compared to Singapore then I want to hear more about your story with plants but first let’s talk about Malaysia. How long did you spend there, born and raised before you came to Massachusetts or other parts of the US?

I only visited many but only live in three countries in my life. I was born in Malaysia when it was called the Malay Peninsula when the British were still there. The British gave the country back to the Malay Sultan, then from the Federation of Malaysia. When the first formed, Singapore was part of the Federation but a year then they separate out from it.

The other two that joined the federation were the independent country that time called Sarawak and Sabah, what is now called East Malaysia. They stay put, so Brunei did not join because they are oil-rich. They didn’t want to join. It’s part of a British protectorate and Singapore exited from Malaysia. I grew up there and did my high school. My undergraduate degree and my PhD were done in the wonderful country of New Zealand.

I was there for eight years to do all my undergraduate and graduate school. I loved the place. Not a lot of people and lots of green everywhere. Agriculture is very different from Singapore and Malaysia. A little bit like Montana and Washington states. It is similar, lots of apples, sheep, farming and stuff like that. I couldn’t believe the time had passed. Decades ago, I have lived right here in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Before I came here, I went to Auburn, Alabama to do my post-doc. My first entry to United State is right in the deep South. Whatever your understanding of the deep South is, I was right there next to Selma, Alabama, Tuskegee Institute, a rich history. A past that is not much endeared a lot but there I was. Auburn University is a wonderful school, a big football country. I did my postdoc there. That’s where I learned about cancer research.

I came to Massachusetts in 1982 and never left. I have been here for many years. I love Massachusetts. I have to live with the cold a little bit in the wintertime but otherwise, it’s good. The fall, beautiful foliage, and stuff like that. Summertime is beautiful and I still get to visit Malaysia and Singapore. I have friends there. My sisters still live in Malaysia. I have some business in Indonesia, so my next trip is.

I didn’t learn about plants. Malaysia is a much bigger size country, so they have plans everywhere and because the tropics are prolific. I personally have a great appreciation for plants for the reason that polymethyl that has a multi-interest. When you talk about mammals, they have to have oxygen. They have hemoglobin blood and they have to have a heart and a cardiovascular. Even a worm has it but a plant has no heart. They don’t need hemoglobin.

They need to photosynthesize but a plant cannot move from place to defend itself. That you can run away from something, flight and fight like that. There’s no flight and fright of plants. For them to stand and fight. Not flight and fright, they stand and fight. Stand and fight means that they must make chemicals. They make chemicals that are poisonous, repel, attract, and do all these things that I mention about because they can’t move to another place.

MGU 406 | Vitamin E

Vitamin E: You have to appreciate what plants can do. They cannot move from place to place to defend themselves. They have to stand and fight. That is why they can create poisonous chemicals.


That has a great fascination for me. I try to do this and I know this time will never have enough time to do it. From this lovely plant that I discover, vitamin E is called annatto. We use it in the West almost thoroughly in making cheese for the yellowish color of cheese an orange color. When I removed the color, that’s when I found vitamin E.

I found another compound called GG that’s good for the elderly for building muscle mass. Even after I have done that, am I blessed or what? I still find some fraction that is not this and not that and it had insect repellent. All of this, the lovely plant makes. I usually don’t talk much about insect repellent. I’m coming back to revisit it now to see how it repels insects because mosquito, for example, is vectors of many diseases.

The one we heard about from the real Olympics was the Zika virus but before that, malaria, typhoid, and many different things. Anyway, I have gone straight off to other things but I have enormous love for plants in a way sometimes, even a little bit. It sounds funny to other people. When I look at a plant, I speak the language of plants. I can sometimes feel they probably make things like this. Now, that is not verbal communication.

If they are verbal communication with plants then maybe something is wrong with me here but I can look at the plant and I intuitively know that there’s something very crucial that the plant does this and that. That is a language you have to understand why the plant is making that for their protection, for their attraction, for their repellent, or whatever. I find that fascinating.

I find that fascinating too. I feel like the I have started to appreciate plants on a whole other level. It’s thanks to visiting different parts of the United States and seeing how different the landscape is around this country but also being able to visit other countries like Singapore. I went to Costa Rica as well and noticing the jungles and how different things are. I went on a trip across the United States and I visit a lot of national parks.

One of the best parts of the national parks is all the plants. The place that stood out to me was Washington State. They have these incredible trees and the greenery comes down. You feel something different. What you are describing is if you can stand there and look at the plant. Not only feel it but I love what you are saying about the language of it. Paying attention to all the little details about why this plant is structured the way it is.

What we can learn from that, I think that’s wildly fascinating. I love that part of your story or a huge part as you are saying with the annatto is so interesting because on your website, you write how you touched it and the color came off on your fingers. They call it the lipstick plant, is that right because it’s so red?

Yes. I know I’m pretending if you see that. If I touch it, it stains. That itself was the context of my discovery. While I’m at this, I should tell you that the color is part of a family of a chemical called keratin carotenoids. The audience will know carotenoids every day in your eating. The orangey color in the carrot is beta keratin. The reddish color in your tomato is lycopene and the one in your retina is lutein and zeaxanthin to prevent macular degeneration. These are all keratin. In lobster and crustaceans, they are astaxanthin.

Notice that when you put the lobster, you cook it. They turn from yucky green or blue color in shrimp and become brilliant orange color. If you come to visit New England in the month, 2nd week or 3rd week of October then the trees turn green to become beautiful orangey, yellow, and many hues of color. They are all keratins from the plant. Notice it. Two weeks after that, they all turned brown and the leaves fall. A month before they were all green.

What is that saying? The keratin was always there. It was masked by chlorophyll. The keratin was there to protect the leaves from not being destroyed by UV light. The keratin is a sunscreen for the leaves. Human beings don’t have it. Now, I will speak in favor of the plant. It makes a human being feel like your talks say uncomfortable. I will make you feel uncomfortable here. Plants never make things for human beings.

We just got it into our heads. We should be grateful we got stuff from the plant. Plants only make things for themselves. When vegans talk all these fantastic things about plant-like they were there because the plant loved them. We are nuts. The plants make things for themselves. They don’t make things for human beings. Vegans eat the plant. You eat them. They are not going to make things for you. They make it for themselves to protect themselves, this and that. The keratin is a sunscreen for the leaves to not die.

Plants never make things for human beings. They only make things for themselves. Click To Tweet

The hormone sets in in the fall and many people say, “Plants have hormones?” Yes, the plant has hormones. The hormone sets in it and say, “It’s time to dial down. We are going to hibernate for the winter now.” The leaves kill the chlorophyll. The chlorophyll shuts down then the keratin shows up for two brilliant weeks.

Notice that two weeks, after that, it all turned brown. That’s telling me that keratin is probably the most unstable compound on earth. It was only there to do the job then it’s over. With all those background understanding, I found this keratin. This keratin is not bound to anything. Unlike carrots, you cook them. If you touch it, it stains you and the British called it the lipstick plant.

When I was in South America looking for lutein and zeaxanthin, which is another keratin. In 1990, I see a much younger me with lots of hair. I found this on a marigold flower. I did find what I went to look for but faith has it that about 30 feet away from me, I saw this annatto plant. I went to look for something and something else caught my attention.

I said, “This annatto plant is keratin,” and then it stains my finger. That means that it’s not unwrapped inside a cell or bound to a protein like in lobster only when you cook them it deproteinate. That means it must be a very powerful antioxidant. At the time, I was guessing it’s a polyphenol. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. I took some back. I analyzed and more surprisingly, it’s a vitamin E. It only contained tocotrienol without any tocopherol. It’s tocopherol-free. By this time, I had already been studying tocotrienol. I found them in rice and palm. However, they contain 25% to 50% tocopherol.

MGU 406 | Vitamin E

Vitamin E: Annatto plants are Keratin. They can also stain your finger, meaning it isn’t wrapped inside a cell or bound to protein. It actually contains tocotrienol without tocopherol.


Indian Natto is free of tocopherol. That year was 1999 or 1998. From then on, I did not start studying tocotrienol then but I discovered this from annatto then. From that day until now, I systematically had gone on to extract this compound and study all the different chronic conditions that you mentioned. For me, even though the study was there, I always remember I did not go to South America to look for this.

I’m not at heart a medicine man. I can craft a story like that and I cannot speak a word of Spanish but I happen to be in Peru. If I were to go to Asia, there are lots of these things there but that’s not where I went. I went to South America looking for lutein then this plant on my face and then they forgive me I can’t speak a word of Spanish. Many years later, I discovered this. How do I feel about them? How do I feel about it? I feel a sense of obligation and gratefulness.

Nobody needs to show me this plant. I was in the right place at the right time. I asked the right question and now what a blessing. There are 50 million chemicals on earth. I did not go to the Amazonia bitten to death by a mosquito and discover something and write all kinds of stories like that. It wasn’t like that. It was as I told you and the plant is very lovely. To show you this Amazonian, I show you. That’s an Amazonian tree frog. That seed, the annatto seed is about the size of a grape seed. Therefore, this tree frog is about a penny or a dime.

It’s very small. This is my discovery time. You can see a much younger me here on a beautiful plant and it’s all primitive plant. The anchor uses it to color their marking on their society. Here’s anchor boy. He placed a decoration on the head. You can see from the bottom here. The annatto seeds and probably, he may have done this as well to repel mosquitoes because of the annatto I mentioned to you.

All of this, I don’t know. I just bought a postcard picture. I did not take those pictures. I bought a postcard. If you go online, there are lots of Hispanic food that use annatto for coloring. If the audience is curious, you can go to any Hispanic store. Ask them, “Do you have annatto seeds?” Go online then you can cook all the dishes.

If he or she at the store does not understand you, when you say annatto, just use a Spanish word. The Spanish word for annatto is called achuete. They instantly will know it. Sometimes if you go to eat Mexican food, you notice that the fried rice is a little bit reddish-orangey hue. If you go to a Chinese restaurant, the fried rice is usually light brown in color because they don’t put that in. If you have a Hispanic-type fair, you can see that.

Sometimes they put it in empanadas. They put it in anything. A pound-up tortilla, if you go to South America or like that. I fell in love with this plant. Who would have guessed after you removed the color with all the benefits, you have this vitamin E and it was intended there to protect the plant. I never got to tell you this last story. Do you know why the plant makes it? Look at this plant again, this is a fruit. There’s something very unusual about this fruit.

It doesn’t have flesh. Think of every and any fruit that you eat. We eat the flesh and that’s called the miso cup, the flesh but this one here is a whole bunch of seeds and a coating on the seed then there’s no fruit. Where the fruit is almost like air. Do you know why the plant does it? The plant is trying to conserve by making fructose and glucose in the fresh and making the seed smell very floral so that the plant deceives the birds of the air and the Amazonian tree frog so that they think that the seed is a fruit. Swallow it whole and poop it to procreate. That’s it. The color is to make it feel it’s like a fruit. Isn’t that fantastic?

That is fantastic. You said earlier about sometimes you feel lonely in all of this but it’s so contagious, your interest in this. I have a little side note question. As you were talking about coloring the rice, I’m curious about if there are any of these or maybe not because they are completely different plants. I started thinking about saffron and I have been learning a little bit more about saffron and how it’s very common as a coloring in rice in certain cultures and how there are some mental health benefits to saffron I have learned.

It makes me think about like how these colors. We will use them maybe for just the appearance, for the flavor but then these plants have all of these additional benefits that many of us are not aware of. When you were talking about the color changing of the leaves in fall, for example, and the impact it has on the plant. It was compelling. When you are describing how plants are not making things for human beings, they are making them for themselves. We happen to get some benefits from them. That’s wild.

On the saffron thing, it is a very Indian fair. They use it to color a little bit of the basmati rice that you go to an Indian restaurant to eat but saffron is very expensive and difficult to grow. I think that it’s also keratin but difficult to grow, so it will stain the basmati rice a little bit reddish. This annatto is a natural color. Not a synthetic color.

Finally, after all these decades, craft food, changing the yellow color of macaroni and cheese. They use annatto now, the color. After all this decade, they finally change. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s only use natural colors. You still see the synthetic color stain color and they are brilliant like M&M and Mars. Those colors are stunning to look at but the natural color does not have that stunning presence like strong green, strong yellow, and strong blue. It doesn’t have that but annatto is probably as red and as orange as you can get. The next time when you go and get a piece of cheese from Whole Food or Trader Joe’s, go to the back and look at the color. It will say annatto color then you will remember what I talked about.

I love that you are making it like a scavenger hunt. It’s like getting somebody to think about it because the word annatto is familiar to me. I didn’t know why. When I was reading it in your work, I just have a thought. It’s never been explained to me in the way that you have. Now you see all of these big benefits. It makes me wonder how many things that we take for granted have these deep roots and history and purpose beyond what we are using it for.

It must make your work so fascinating because the final question I have for you now is what does the future hold for you? You have been doing this work for so long. Do you see any signs of stopping? Is there something that you hope to accomplish before eventually you end your career in this line of work or do you see this as a lifelong mission where you are going to keep going even if you are not doing it for work?

I had asked that question. How about it, if you give me two moments I would say. Before I answer that question on the vitamin E tocotrienol, if you ever were to go out there to look, make sure it says annatto tocotrienol. You can always go to my website, American River Nutrition. It lists all the company that sells it. We don’t make the finished product. When we make them, it’s a huge market company. People who buy from us are companies and they make their products. Make sure it says annatto tocotrienol. We are the only company in the world making it in the United States here in Massachusetts.

Our brand name is called DeltaGold® because the key vitamin E is called Delta Tocotrienol. Hence, we call it DeltaGold® just as a trademark. We used it to study pre-diabetes. People with high cholesterol and triglyceride are called dyslipidemia. We also study people with diabetes and now we are studying people with fatty liver disease. People with diabetes are 35 million.

Pre-diabetes and separately fatty liver are probably 90 to 100 million. It’s a huge subset of Americans with this condition. We are trying to address this. In short, this clinical study proves that it worked. The amount that people take typically is from 200 to 400 milligrams based on the studies that we have. Separate from this, we also study cancer research, particularly on stage four cancer, which means that no options are available. The 4 or 5 cancer conditions that we and others do are ovarian cancer, breast cancer, common in women and men and women, colon cancer, and lung cancer. The deadliest of them also studied by my colleague in Florida, is pancreatic cancer.

Those are the five cancers we study. Animals study are almost a hundred different ones but we have to choose a battle to fight what to study when it comes to human clinical trials. I thought that when I have done this, I thought, “I’m approaching this age, I should retire now.” When I was removing the color from this plant, I removed the color then I found out that vitamin E protects the color. I noticed that when I extract vitamin E, I still have a percent or two of something that looks like corn oil.

I tried to look. I was curious because I’m also a chemist, so this is a part that intuitive is good but you have to be a chemist to look for things. Otherwise, it looks like oil. We found out that the chemical, it is chemical here. It is a very simple, very ancient primitive compound called Geranylgeraniol. You can acronize this to GG. This compound, the plant mix, which I found from annatto. This compound, the human body also makes. As the human body makes it, I was highly curious to know why the human body makes this compound. In the background, if I stand back, that’s a long molecule of CoQ10.

If I put the GG next to it, approximately two and a half time the size of the tail is the CoQ10 compound. The human body uses GG to make CoQ10 in short. The human body also uses GG to make vitamin K2 and time here doesn’t permit me to talk about this. If you google vitamin K2 and you find out all the wonderful things K2 can do. You will automatically want to have an interview with me another time on this GG.

Let me tell you the last one. The last one, we are all interested once we pass the age of 30 and older we have. Even if you may be young, just think of your elderly parents. You know what I mean. They lose muscle mass and the scientific word for loss of muscle mass is Sarcopenia. Penia means loss of something. Sarco is probably the Latin word for muscle. Sometimes they use a myo. You can call it myopenia but sarcopenia is a common word. The American population is going older. A little bit hiccup because of covid but they are going older. Japanese and even in China and elsewhere, people are getting older.

The loss of quality of life compromises how they can live. One of the major ways they have a loss of quality of life is they lost so much muscle mass, they cannot walk and thrive properly. That’s it. People don’t usually connect that dot. That is an important dot. As I’m getting older, I try to have exercise to walk. The point is GG is required in the body for the synthesis of skeletal muscle, the shortest I can say. I said, “When I discover this plant accidentally more than two decades ago, I would never have guessed inside it, hidden after something hidden. It’s a compound that a human body also happened to make.”

MGU 406 | Vitamin E

Vitamin E: As people get older, they start to lose muscle mass. This is called Sarcopenia, which causes the elderly to lose their quality of life. The body creates Geranylgeraniol for the muscles to address this.


We just don’t make enough as we age and we, therefore, don’t make enough CoQ10, vitamin K2 and make enough muscle. To answer the question, am I going to retire? Not until I have done everything that I possibly can to know what GG can be useful to people. If I can make that contribution, then I felt that I’m not in my twenties. I cannot run like the young stallion but I’m in my 60s, very soon, 70. If I can make a contribution to the elderly population that can resist muscle mass loss, I think that would be a good legacy then I pass the helm to other people that can do wonderful things like that.

My wife and I will sail into the sunset and do something else. To answer your question, not quite yet. Until I do something and make a great. I’m thinking of this as an enthusiast because I felt a responsibility. I felt that the plant doesn’t need to tell me but it did. I felt that I have a duty to figure out how this can benefit human beings and when I can do that, I will be glad to do that. I will be a happy guy.

You already seem like a happy guy, so it’s so wonderful to think of how you want to continue with this and you are so dedicated. Using the terms like contribution and duty and responsibility, it’s amazing. This is why it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show. You mentioned your wife. There was a quote, I think on your website I read that said, “I have two loves in my life. My wife, Elizabeth, and tocotrienol.” Is tocotrinol a different thing or is it just a mispronunciation?

No, they are the same thing. Sometimes people say to tocotrinol. Some British people call it, I just default and say. By the way, tocotrienol was discovered only in the 1960, the University of Liverpool and USDA. My colleague, he’s too active in research, a Pakistani professor at the University of Wisconsin Medicine. This tocotrienol discovery, the research before it landed on my shoulder is a very American thing including the discovery of vitamin E.

I never said it. Vitamin E was discovered by two pediatricians at UC Berkeley in 1922. They discovered vitamin E and many audiences did not know this. Tocopherol was discovered and became a vitamin E because it brings the fetus to full term. Most people know vitamin E as an antioxidant vitamin. It is. However, it did not get the status of a vitamin because of antioxidants. It gets the status of a vitamin because it is a birth vitamin. That was the reason.

Vitamin E did not get its status as a vitamin because of antioxidants. It got its status because it's a birth vitamin. Click To Tweet

If you were to say, “I interviewed Dr. Tan. He talks about birth vitamins in ways way beyond.” It was first discovered and became given the superstar status of vitamin because it brings a fetus to full term. Therefore, the only time tocopherol should be a woman should take or any person, which is a woman since a man doesn’t have a fetus. A woman should take it in prenatal. In prenatal, you want the alpha-tocopherol there because they bring the fetus to full term. Besides that, people should not be supplementing tocopherol. Instead, they should be supplementing tocotrienol for antioxidant protection and all these chronic conditions that I mentioned to you.

I’m so happy I remember that because sometimes I didn’t say that and people accuse me of demonizing tocopherol. There is a place but the place for tocopherol is very specific on the prenatal thing. Anyway, many expected moms and their doctors will ask them to take prenatal automatically this alpha-tocopherol should be in there.

Your memory is quite astounding. It seems to me like what better reason to listen to you because not only are you knowledgeable but you retain all this information which says you must be doing something right. Are you talking about the gift for the elderly and the aging, and the impact of this on your brain health? I feel like you are a walking testament to the power of taking good care of yourself, understanding nutrition, and getting into the science of appreciating plants.

You have covered so much and I have found it delightful because you are an incredible ambassador for this because you have so much. That in itself is such a gift and I’m very grateful that you spent this time, that you shared all this information and as you mentioned, you are giving the surface. There’s so much more. You have a book, a free book that you offer. What is included in that book for someone who wants to learn more from you?

From this book, I put in a lot of references. I describe my discovery as I share. Also, I described the various chronic condition and how you reference them, so people can look at the studies themselves. You can download the book at Even if you forget it, if you type my name because I work on this for so many donkey decades.

MGU 406 | Vitamin E

The Truth about Vitamin E: The Secret to Thriving with Annatto Tocotrienols By Dr. Barrie Tan

You can simply type American River Nutrition. If you go to the website, we have three different things. DeltaGold® would be the tocotrienol. This is our tradename. The other one is GG-Gold®. The third one I mentioned is about CoQ10. We add CoQ10 to GG so that it’s called DuoQuinol®. I will say some of your audience may want to know this. Many people take statin drugs. Statin drugs they take because their cholesterol is high. Statin inhibits cholesterol synthesis and the pathway where cholesterol is synthesized one step below, unfortunately.

If it’s one step above then if you inhibit, it doesn’t go back up. If you inhibit here, you will go down. Think of Interstate 95. It is the most trafficked highway in the entire United States. If you use a statin, it inhibits Boston, just think of it figuratively. Somewhere in New York City, in the New Jersey highway 95, they go there. That is GG. GG inhibition will be obligatory because you have to inhibit at Boston. Further down in Virginia, that’s a synthesis of CoQ10. Further down in Atlanta, before you even get to Florida is skeletal muscle.

If you inhibit cholesterol in Boston, cholesterol drop like meth. Everybody knows that but they will obligatorily inhibit GG. Since GG is responsible for both the synthesis of CoQ10 and skeletal muscle, that is the reason why your doctor who gave you statin is worried. Do you have any myopathy? Myopathy means something funny. Something is damaging your muscle.

If you go and see your holistic doctor will measure your CoQ10. CoQ10 drop and myopathy are because of certain reducing the synthesis of GG. That’s it. If you got this, you know what to do. If you go to my website, you can download the paper. If you are a fearless person and want to read to the bottom of all the study, go online and download the study.

If you don’t understand parts of it, you can send me an email or give that study to your health professional and let him or her read it and ask him or her to know, or is this a fool of truth and veracity? If it is then you consider taking it. I encourage people to do that so that they walk into something very learned. Thank you for allowing me to put in the last piece there. I feel that it’s important.

It is very important for the readers. Dr. Barrie, you have done so many visuals. You have inspired me to get back on track with the videos for the show, which have been on pause for a while. I can’t wait to upload this to YouTube for people to watch eventually. If you want to go back and reread any of this, take it to another level, it’s there for you in written format at I have tried to make it easy for you to take the next steps for anything that you are interested.

Dr. Tan, you have been so lovely. I have enjoyed listening to you, hearing your story, and learning more. It sparked something in me which is a greater appreciation for plants. I was already on that track and now I feel like that’s been even further elevated. Also, understanding the science of these things and coming back around to the nutrition and the impacts and how we have so many things that we can use to improve our quality of life and keep that going for a long time. Thank you so much for that. It’s been a wonderful gift to have you here on the show.

Thank you for having me. I hope that your audience will also be similarly enlightened. Probably toward the end of 2023, we would have finished some clinical trials on GG that we are starting now. Most of them are tocotrienol and GG. By the end of 2023, if you remember this episode, you may interview me again. At that time, we can talk about what we did with GG and what are some of the outcomes of those studies. I would be happy to review that when the time comes. Thank you so much. Be blessed.

Thank you so much.


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About Dr. Barrie Tan

MGU 406 | Vitamin EDr. Barrie Tan is hailed as a trailblazer and the world’s foremost expert on vitamin E. A scientist first and foremost, Dr. Tan earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry/Biochemistry from the University of Otago, New Zealand and spent several years as a professor at UMass. His research expertise includes lipid-soluble nutrients (carotenoids, E vitamers, CoQ10, and omega-3s) that impact chronic conditions. He was the first to introduce tocotrienols benefits to the nutrition industry and developed the first-ever tocopherol-free tocotrienol product derived from annatto.

Dr. Tan continues to collaborate with numerous universities worldwide to further tocotrienol research. Beyond tocotrienol, Dr. Tan’s research now spans into geranylgeraniol, a critical endogenous nutrient for healthy aging. Dr. Tan has held roles of Chief Scientific Officer and Scientific Board Member for multinational organizations. His career includes periods working in association with the US Armed Forces and a Prince of Thailand as well as being an internationally celebrated and sought-after speaker, having presented at multiple respected conferences in the field including; IFT, ADA, ASN, IHS, A4M, NPA, AACR, ICIM, AOCS, IAOMT, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Renowned for his engaging warmth and gracious humor, Dr. Tan has also been featured in array of popular media including the Ben Greenfield and JJ Virgin podcasts. Dr. Tan is currently the President of American River Nutrition, a natural health R&D company he started with his wife, Elizabeth, in 1998. Described as a scientific pioneer, his mission is simple, improve the everyday health of people’s lives.


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