Reduced vitamin E levels linked with poorer quality of life in older individuals
A communication published online on June 1, 2009 in the British Journal of Nutrition reported that reduced plasma levels of vitamin E predicted poor quality of life and increased inflammation in older men and women.
For the current investigation, researchers at the University Victor Segalen Bordeaux in France evaluated 23 men and 46 women who participated in the Three-City Study of aged individuals residing in Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier, France. Quality of life was ascertained from the participants’ responses to surveys that assessed physical and mental health. Blood samples were analyzed for plasma alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), and the amino acid tryptophan, which helps regulate mood.
Thirty-five subjects were categorized as having poor physical health, and 34 as exhibiting good physical health. Mental health status was similarly categorized. Better physical health was associated with lower levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, and both improved physical and mental health were associated with higher vitamin E and tryptophan levels. Lower concentrations of vitamin E were correlated with higher levels of interleukin-6, and lower tryptophan levels with higher CRP concentrations.
According to the authors, the low vitamin E levels observed in this study could indicate that dietary intake of the vitamin is insufficient, or that more vitamin E and other antioxidants are being degraded due to increased formation of reactive oxygen species by inflammation. Additionally, the correlation between higher levels of inflammatory markers and lower tryptophan levels supports the hypothesis of increased degradation of the amino acid in association with inflammation.
“The present findings document a clear association between vitamin E levels and inflammatory pathways in the elderly and suggest that their interaction may influence quality of life,” the authors conclude. “Insufficient antioxidant intake and/or defenses, as assessed by plasma vitamin E, appear to correlate with signs of inflammation and participate in age-related alterations in health and quality of life.”
Chronic systemic inflammation is an underlying cause of many seemingly unrelated, age-related diseases. As humans grow older, systemic inflammation can inflict devastating degenerative effects throughout the body (Ward 1995; McCarty 1999; Brod 2000). This fact is often overlooked by the medical establishment, yet persuasive scientific evidence exists that correcting a chronic inflammatory disorder will enable many of the infirmities of aging to be prevented or reversed.
Scientists have identified dietary supplements and prescription drugs that can reduce levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines. The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fraction of fish oil is the best documented supplement to suppress tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), IL-6, IL-1(b), and IL-8 (Jeyarajah et al. 1999; James et al. 2000; Watanabe et al. 2000; Yano et al. 2000). A study on healthy humans and those with rheumatoid disease shows that fish oil suppresses these dangerous cytokines by up to 90% (James et al. 2000).
Other cytokine-lowering supplements are DHEA (Casson et al. 1993), vitamin K (Reddi et al. 1995; Weber 1997), GLA (gamma linolenic acid) (Purasiri et al. 1994), and nettle leaf extract (Teucher et al. 1996). Antioxidants, such as vitamin E (Devaraj et al. 2000) and N-acetyl-cysteine (Gosset et al. 1999), may also lower pro-inflammatory cytokines and protect against their toxic effects.
Excess IL-6 and other inflammatory cytokines attack bone and promote the formation of fibrinogen that can induce a heart attack or stroke (di Minno et al. 1992). To prevent and treat the multiple diseases of aging, it is critical to keep these destructive immune chemicals (cytokines) in safe ranges.
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