Sesamin

Last Updated: September 28 2022

Sesamin is a lignan derived from sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) that appears to inhibit vitamin E metabolism, which causes a relative increase in circulating levels of γ-tocopherol and γ-tocotrienol; it shows most promise in augmenting the efficacy of vitamin E supplements.

Sesamin is most often used for

Summary

Sesamin is the most prominent lignan compound found in sesame seeds, one of the two highest sources of lignans in the human diet (the other being flax). Sesamin is catered to be a nutritional supplement that confers antioxidant and antiinflammatory effects (if touting its health properties) or possibly being an estrogen receptor modulator and fat burner (if targeting atheltes or persons wishing to lose weight).

Sesamin has a few mechanisms, and when looking at it holistically it can be summed up as a fatty acid metabolism modifier. It appears to inhibit an enzyme known as delta-5-desaturase (Δ5-desaturase) which is a rate-limiting enzyme in fatty acid metabolism; inhibiting this enzyme results in lower levels of both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, one of the two fish oil fatty acids) as well as arachidonic acid, and this mechanism appears to be relevant following oral ingestion. The other main mechanism is inhibiting a process known as Tocopherol-ω-hydroxylation, which is the rate limiting step in the metabolism of Vitamin E; by inhibiting this enzyme, sesamin causes a relative increase of vitamin E in the body but particularly those of the gamma subset (γ-tocopherol and γ-tocotrienol) and this mechanism has also been confirmed to be active following oral ingestion.

There are some other mechanisms in place which seem promising (protection against Parkinson's Disease as well as promotion of bone mass) but most of the mechanisms including estrogen receptor modulation, fat burning from the liver, and activation of the antioxidant response element (ARE) have not been confirmed in humans and have their reasons to suspect that they do not occur; this includes either a concentration that is too high to matter for oral supplementation, or in the case of fat burning it being a process that seems to be exclusive to rats.

In the end, sesamin serves a pretty interesting role as having the potential to augment γ-tocopherol and γ-tocotrienol metabolism by preventing their degradation; increasing the levels of these vitamin E vitamers has a lot of therapeutic benefits in and of itself, and since they are quite expensive to purchase as supplements then sesamin could be a cheap workaround or something used to 'cut' the vitamin E.

What else is Sesamin known as?
Sesamin should not be confused with:
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sesame Oil
Dosage information

There are limited human studies on sesamin, but it appears that oral ingestion of around 100-150mg of sesamin is sufficient to raise bodily sesamin stores to the level where it can preserve Vitamin E in the body; this indirect antioxidative effect may be the most practical reason to supplement sesamin.

If using sesame seeds to get your sesamin from, human studies have used 50-75g of sesame seeds with some success and rat studies tend to use 100-fold the oral dose of sesame seeds relative to sesamin (which would make the aforemented dose of 100-150mg as minimum being 10-15g of sesame seeds).

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