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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Vitamin E May Boost Vitality in Aging

Low Blood Levels of Vitamin E May Predict Physical Decline After Age 65
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 22, 2008 -- People may be more likely to stay nimble after age 65 if they get enough vitamin E from foods, a new study shows.

The study comes from Italy. Some 700 men and women aged 65 and older took part. They did three things:

  • Provide a blood sample.
  • Get a checkup.
  • Take three tests of physical function.

Those physical function tests included a timed walk, standing up from a chair five times in a row with their hands folded over their chest, and balancing while standing in three different positions. Test scores ranged from 0 (failing all four tests) to 4 (acing all four tests).

Three years later, participants repeated the physical function test. Their test scores dipped by about a point, on average.

But people with high blood levels of vitamin E showed a milder decline in their physical function test scores.

Vitamin E may ward off physical decline, or maybe it's just a marker of other positive traits. This study doesn't settle that issue because vitamin E wasn't tested for its effects on physical function.

The study wasn't about vitamin E supplements. Only one participant was taking a vitamin E supplement.

It's easy to get enough vitamin E from foods such as almonds, tomato sauce, and sunflower seeds, according to Cornell University's Benedetta Bartali, RD, PhD, and colleagues.

But some of those foods, including nuts, are high in fat and calories. So don't overindulge.

Bartali's team calls for clinical trials to determine the optimal level of vitamin E for older adults.

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