Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health


Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health


Article excerpt


Background: A protective role of dietary vitamin E intake on disorders related to the immune system, such as allergic diseases, has been suggested. However, results from epidemiological studies are conflicting.

Objectives: The aim of present study was to analyze whether dietary vitamin E intake is related to the prevalence of allergic sensitization and total serum IgE concentrations in adult subjects.

Methods: The present study population consisted of 366 adults aged 29 to 54 years participating in the German centers of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS) II, Erfurt and Hamburg. A validated food frequency questionnaire was used to gather information on dietary vitamin E intake. Total serum IgE concentrations and specific IgE to common allergens were analyzed by using the Pharmacia CAP System. Allergic sensitization was defined as specific serum IgE concentration ≥0.35 kU/l.

Results: The risk for allergic sensitization was substantially decreased in the middle quartiles (aOR: 0.42; 95% CI: 0.22-0.81) and the highest quartile (aOR: 0.22; 95% CI: 0.08-0.60) of total dietary vitamin E intake, after adjustment for potential confounders. Total serum IgE concentration was not statistically significantly associated with dietary vitamin E intake.

Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that dietary vitamin E intake might play a protective role in the development of allergic sensitization.

Key words: adults, allergic sensitization, α-tocopherol, dietary vitamin E, ECRHS II, immunoglobulin E


Recent research on the etiology of the increasing prevalence rates of asthma and allergy also considers dietary factors that are typical for a western lifestyle. Among the changing composition of the diet during the past decades, a decreased intake of fresh fruit and vegetables were discussed to play a role in the development of allergic sensitization and allergic diseases (1-3). Vitamin and antioxidant deficiency has mainly been thought to underlie these observations. One focus was put on the intake of vitamin E as epidemiological studies were demonstrating beneficial associations between dietary vitamin E intake and hay fever (4), wheeze (5-7) and asthma (8-10). However, supplementation with different forms of vitamin E was often not effective in clinical trials (11, 12). Therefore, the interest on the potential role of dietary vitamin E on allergy manifestation has diminished rapidly. Given that the presence of elevated serum levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) are known to be fundamental to type I allergic reactions and can be synthesised even before clinical symptoms occur, it might be worthwhile to pay more attention to early markers of allergy such as IgE.

While great attention has been paid to the antioxidative capacity of vitamin E in the past (13, 14), based on the findings from experimental studies in animals and humans, the potential biological mechanisms of vitamin E on IgE production are mainly those exerted on T helper cell differentiation and on regulatory functions in eicosanoid production. In vitro, vitamin E increases T helper 1 (ThI) cytokine secretion and inhibits T helper 2 (Th2) cytokine secretions (15, 16). Vitamin E also reduces interleukin-4 (IL-4) secretion in human peripheral blood T-cells in a dose dependent manner (17). As IL-4 promotes the production of IgE antibodies by B-cells, it is one of the key cytokines in the development of allergic inflammation. Furthermore, an inhibitory effect of vitamin E on the activity of cyclooxygenase, a major enzyme for eicosanoid synthesis, particularly arachidonic acid-derived prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), has been reported (18). In turn, PGE2 has been implicated in shifting the balance of Thl/Th2 cells and their cytokines towards a Th2 profile (19). Overall, evidence from experiments suggests that vitamin E might be protective against the development of allergic sensitization. …

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