1. Free radicals generated by ferric nitrilotriacetate (FeNTA) can activate osteoclastic activity and this is associated with elevation of the bone resorbing cytokines interleukin (IL)-1 and IL-6. In the present study, we investigated the effects of 2 mg/kg FeNTA (2 mg iron/kg) on the levels of serum IL-1 and IL-6 with or without supplementation with a palm oil tocotrienol mixture or alpha-tocopherol acetate in Wistar rats. 2. The FeNTA was found to elevate levels of IL-1 and IL-6. Only the palm oil tocotrienol mixture at doses of 60 and 100 mg/kg was able to prevent FeNTA-induced increases in IL-1 (P < 0.01). Both the palm oil tocotrienol mixture and alpha-tocopherol acetate, at doses of 30, 60 and 100 mg/kg, were able to reduce FeNTA-induced increases in IL-6 (P < 0.05). Therefore, the palm oil tocotrienol mixture was better than pure alpha-tocopherol acetate in protecting bone against FeNTA (free radical)-induced elevation of bone-resorbing cytokines. 3. Supplementation with the palm oil tocotrienol mixture or alpha-tocopherol acetate at 100 mg/kg restored the reduction in serum osteocalcin levels due to ageing, as seen in the saline (control) group (P < 0.05). All doses of the palm oil tocotrienol mixture decreased urine deoxypyridinoline cross-link (DPD) significantly compared with the control group, whereas a trend for decreased urine DPD was only seen for doses of 60 mg/kg onwards of alpha-tocopherol acetate (P < 0.05). 4. Bone histomorphometric analyses have shown that FeNTA injections significantly lowered mean osteoblast number (P < 0.001) and the bone formation rate (P < 0.001), but raised osteoclast number (P < 0.05) and the ratio of eroded surface/bone surface (P < 0.001) compared with the saline (control) group. Supplementation with 100 mg/kg palm oil tocotrienol mixture was able to prevent all these FeNTA-induced changes, but a similar dose of alpha-tocopherol acetate was found to be effective only for mean osteoclast number. Injections of FeNTA were also shown to reduce trabecular bone volume (P < 0.001) and trabecular thickness (P < 0.05), whereas only supplementation with 100 mg/kg palm oil tocotrienol mixture was able to prevent these FeNTA-induced changes.