An elderly person whose vitamin E blood levels are low is more likely to experience faster physical decline than an elderly person whose levels are normal, say researchers from the Yale School of Medicine. Low serum concentration of vitamin E is an indication of poor nutrition.

You can read about this in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), January 23rd issue.

Benedetta Bartali, Nutritionist, a Brown-Coxe Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale School of Medicine, and team looked at 698 people, all aged at least 65 years. They were randomly selected from the population registry of two councils near Florence, Italy. Blood samples were collected to measure micronutrient levels of folate, iron, and vitamins B6, B12, D and E. All participants’ physical decline over a three-year period were assessed, using an objective test that involved three tasks:

— walking speed
— getting up from a chair repeatedly
— standing balance

Bartali said “We evaluated the effects of several micronutrients and only vitamin E was significantly associated with decline in physical function. The odds of declining in physical function was 1.62 time greater in persons with low levels of vitamin E compared with persons with higher levels. It is unlikely that vitamin E is simply a marker for poor nutrition because our results are independent of energy intake, and the effect of low levels of other micronutrients was not significant. Our results suggest that an appropriate dietary intake of vitamin E may help to reduce the decline in physical function among older persons. Since only one person in our study used vitamin E supplements, it is unknown whether the use of vitamin E supplements would have the same beneficial effect.”

Additional studies are required to determine whether low levels of other antioxidants are also factors influencing physical decline during old age, Bartali added.

As an antioxidant, vitamin E seems to help prevent/reduce the proliferation of free radicals in the body, which are linked to physical decline. This may well contribute towards the reduction of muscle or DNA damage and the development of pathological conditions like atherosclerosis.

The researchers also said that additional studies are required to determine the mechanisms of how low levels of vitamin E contribute to physical function decline.

The authors concluded “In conclusion, the current study provides empirical evidence that a low concentration of vitamin E is associated with subsequent decline in physical function in a population-based sample of older persons living in the community. Although the findings from this epidemiological study cannot establish causality, they provide a solid base that low concentration of vitamin E contributes to decline in physical function. Clinical trials may be warranted to determine whether optimal concentration of vitamin E reduces functional decline and the onset of disability in older persons with a low concentration of vitamin E.”

“Serum Micronutrient Concentrations and Decline in Physical Function Among Older Persons”
Benedetta Bartali, RD, PhD; Edward A. Frongillo, PhD; Jack M. Guralnik, MD, PhD; Martha H. Stipanuk, PhD; Heather G. Allore, PhD; Antonio Cherubini, MD, PhD; Stefania Bandinelli, MD; Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD; Thomas M. Gill, MD
JAMA. 2008;299(3):308-315.
Click here to view abstract online

Foods Rich in Vitamin E
(Source – Northwestern University, Dept of Preventive Medicine)

– Almond oil, 1Tbl – 5.0 mg of vitamin E
– Almonds, 1/2 cup – 2.2 mg of vitamin E
– Avocado, whole – 2.8 mg of vitamin E
– Canola oil, 1 Tbl – 2.9 mg of vitamin E
– Catfish, 3.5 oz – 1.3 mg of vitamin E
– Corn oil, 1 Tbl – 2.9 mg of vitamin E
– Grapes, 1 cup – 1.1 mg of vitamin E
Mango, fresh – 2.3 mg of vitamin E
– Margarine, 1 Tbl – 1.6 mg of vitamin E
– Mayonnaise, 1 Tbl – 1.7 mg of vitamin E
– Mustard greens, 1/2 cup – 1.4 mg of vitamin E
– Olive oil, 1 Tbl – 1.7 mg of vitamin E
Papaya cubes, 1 cup – 1.6 mg of vitamin E
– Peanut butter, 2 Tbl – 3.3 mg of vitamin E
– Peanut oil, 1 Tbl – 1.7 mg of vitamin E
– Peanuts, 1/2 cup – 2.5 mg of vitamin E
– Pinto beans, 1/2 cup – 1.1 mg of vitamin E
– Sunflower oil, 1 Tbl – 7.0 mg of vitamin E
– Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup – 17.0 mg of vitamin E
– Swiss chard, 1/2 cup – 1.7 mg of vitamin E
– Wheat germ, 2 Tbl – 2.6 mg of vitamin E

Written by – Christian Nordqvist