However, the effect was only observed in participants aged over 40, noted the researchers, from Guangdong, China.
“Our data may support the supplementation of vitamin E to be used as an intervention strategy for the occurrence of Parkinson's disease,” they wrote in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.
Vitamin E and Parkinson’s disease: Contradictory findings
Trials evaluating the role of vitamin E in Parkinson’s – a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder with symptoms including tremor, slowed movement, rigidity, and impaired posture and balance – are inconsistent.
The nutrient is known to have health benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering effects; this has spurred research into its role as a therapeutic approach for neurodegenerative disorders. Vitamin E compounds are thought to exert indirect neuroprotective effects in Parkinson's disease due to the neurotoxic potential of inflammation and oxidative stress.
However, while studies have suggested that vitamin E supplementation can reduce the risk of developing the condition, others have shown it to be ineffective.
Some studies have even associated the nutrient with adverse effects; a meta-analysis from 2005 states that “high-dosage vitamin E supplementation may increase all-cause mortality”.
The authors of a 2021 review wrote: “Vitamin E supplementation as a therapy, particularly for neurodegenerative disorders, appears feasible and has been widely investigated, both in vitro and in vivo.
“However, it has so far not been established in the prevention or treatment of these disorders, given the incoherent and sometimes contradictive results of interventional studies.”
A potential neuroprotective agent in Parkinson’s disease
The authors leading the recent research conducted a cross-sectional study using data collected from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2009 and 2018.
The total sample came to 13,340 participants; data on dietary vitamin E intakes was collected through recall interviews. Subsequent analysis demonstrated a non-linear association between dietary consumption of vitamin E and the development of Parkinson's disease, according to the researchers.
“A higher vitamin E intake is linked to a reduced risk of Parkinson's disease, to some extent,” they concluded.
As a result of their findings, they suggested that people consider adhering to diets containing foods rich in vitamin E, such as the Mediterranean diet, to prevent Parkinson's disease.
However, they highlighted that the data relates to dietary intakes only.
“It is worth noting that dietary vitamin E intake was only derived from food intake data and does not include the use of supplements,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, subgroup analysis found that only participants who were aged 40 to 50 years and over 60 years exhibited dietary vitamin E intake as a protective factor.
“Considering the growing prevalence of Parkinson's disease and the potential neuroprotective properties of vitamin E, this discovery holds significant implications for both public health and clinical practice. It suggests that ensuring sufficient dietary vitamin E levels could be crucial in lowering the risk of Parkinson's disease,” the authors wrote.
“However, more extensive research is necessary to unravel the underlying mechanisms and thoroughly investigate the potential advantages and drawbacks of dietary vitamin E supplementation.”