SDO partners UKM in clinical trial for fatty liver treatment

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The comprehensive clinical trial will determine if tocotrienols, an antioxidant in the vitamin E family, derives from palm oil

By SHAZNI ONG / Pic By ARIF KARTONO

SIME Darby Oils (SDO) is collaborating with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) for a comprehensive clinical trial on using palm oil for the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

It will be the world’s first comprehensive clinical trial to determine if tocotrienols — an antioxidant in the vitamin E family to treat accumulation of excess fat in the liver — derived from palm oil.

SDO MD Mohd Haris Mohd Arshad said tocotrienols are extracted from the “elaeis guineensis” palm fruit harvested exclusively from the plantations of Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, through the company’s molecular distillation process.

“SDO currently produces a tocotrienol supplement called NATRIEO, which has been made commercially available by the company since 2002.

“With our ‘source to seal’ guarantee, we assure that our tocotrienols extracted from this process is of the highest quality and freshest, due to our 24-hour processing timeline upon arrival of our premium quality oils from our plantation,” he told reporters at the memorandum of agreement (MoA) signing ceremony between the two parties in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

Mohd Haris noted the MoA 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 UKM is that it allows for both the development and practical implementation of our findings.

“The 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,” he said.

The collaboration between SDO and UKM, which is expected to run for two years, will produce preliminary results within six months from the commencement of the clinical trial this month and a full publication of the findings in 2021.

UKM’s Faculty of Medicine dean Professor Dr Raja Affendi Raja Ali said early-stage NAFLD does not cause any harm, but if left untreated, 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.

Dr Raja Affendi who is also a consultant physician in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM and UKM Specialist Centre in Bandar Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur, said the prevalence of NAFLD in Malaysia could be approximately 15%-30%.

The projection is based on the high prevalence of other metabolic diseases that are commonly associated with NAFLD, such as high blood sugar, hypertension and obesity.

“About 60% of Malaysians with slightly elevated cholesterol levels have NAFLD, and yet, no medication is available for the disease.

“(Hence), 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,” he said.

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 to 60 times more potent in antioxidative properties than the commonly known tocopherol, which is usually extracted from other vegetable oils,” Dr Raja Affendi said.

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