KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Oils (SDO) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) will carry out clinical trials to find out if the palm oil derived Tocotrienols can be used in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, they said this is the world’s first comprehensive clinical trial whether Tocotrienols, an antioxidant in the vitamin E family, could be used in NAFLD treatment.
They expect to see preliminary results within six months from the start of the clinical trial this month and a full publication of the findings in 2021.
NAFLD is a common disorder affecting non-alcohol consumers and refers to a group of conditions involving the accumulation of excess fat in the liver.
Early-stage NAFLD does not usually cause any harm. But if left untreated, it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, a disease in which the liver does not function properly due to long-term replacement of normal liver tissues with scar tissues.
Both parties signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) for the two-year collaboration.
Representing SDO was its managing director, Mohd Haris Mohd Arshad while UKM was represented by its dean of faculty of medicine and professor of medicine, Prof Dr Raja Affendi Raja Ali. He represented UKM’s official signatory to the MoA, Vice Chancellor, Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor.
Dr Raja Affendi, a consultant physician in gastroenterology & hepatology at the Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz & UKM Specialist Centre, who is also the lead investigator of the clinical trial said the prevalence of NAFLD in Malaysia could be about 15% to 30% of the general adult population.
This projection is based on the high prevalence of other metabolic diseases in the Malaysian population that are commonly associated with NAFLD, such as high blood sugar, hypertension, and obesity.
About 60% of Malaysian with slightly elevated cholesterol levels have NAFLD, and yet, no medication is available for the disease.
"We are running a randomised double-blind clinical trial with a localised demographic sample focusing on a full-spectrum testing of fatty liver, the first and the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.
“At the moment it is hard to find clinical trials involving a population that has diverse racial profiles such as the Malaysians," Dr Raja Affendi added.
The Tocotrienols that will be used in the clinical trial studies are extracted from palm fruit (Elaeis Guineensis) harvested exclusively from the plantations of Sime Darby Plantation (SDP), the world’s largest producer of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).
SDP together with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) pioneered the palm Tocotrienols extraction process in 1993.
SDO currently produces a Tocotrienol supplement called NATRIÉO, which has been made commercially available by the company since 2002.
Earlier studies had shown that Tocotrienols is a powerful antioxidant and is effective in reducing arterial blockage, lowering bad cholesterols and preventing a variety of ageing-related disorders due to reduced free radicals and DNA damage, among others.
"Tocotrienols is an antioxidant classed as a vitamin E that is unique to palm. It is 40-60 times more potent in antioxidative properties than the commonly known tocopherol, which is usually extracted from other vegetable oils," said Dr Raja Affendi.
Mohd Haris said the MOA could pave the way for more collaboration between the two organisations in the future.
He added it could also be a catalyst for SDO to conduct further research on human health issues, in line with the company’s interest to diversify into various downstream activities and business opportunities.
"The importance of developing partnerships with institutions such as the UKM is that it allows for both the development and practical implementation of our findings.
"This collaboration further solidifies our goal to be evidence-based in our claims, especially in the nutrition business. It also aligns with our aspiration to venture into the nutrition and wellness industry, ” said Mohd Haris.
“NATRIÉO Tocotrienols are extracted from palm fruits through our molecular distillation process. With our ‘Source to Seal’ guarantee, we assure that our tocotrienols extracted from this process is of the highest quality and the freshest, due to our 24-hour processing timeline upon arrival of our premium quality oils from our plantation, ” he added.