Lower plasma vitamin E levels are associated with the frailty syndrome: The InCHIANTI study

Alessandro Ble, Antonio Cherubini, Stefano Volpato, Benedetta Bartali, Jeremy D. Walston, B. Gwen Windham, Stefania Bandinelli, Fulvio Lauretani, Jack M. Guralnik, Luigi Ferrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The primary biologic mechanism that causes frailty in older persons has never been adequately explained. According to recent views, oxidative stress may be the driving force of this condition. We tested the hypothesis that, independent of confounders, low plasma levels of vitamin E (α-tocopherol), the main fat-soluble human antioxidant, are associated with the frailty syndrome in older persons free from dementia and disability. Methods. The study sample included 827 older (≥65 years) persons (women, 54%) who participated in a population-based epidemiological study. Frail participants were identified based on the presence of at least three of five of the following features: self-reported weight loss, low energy, slow gait speed, low grip strength, and low physical activity. Participants with none of these features were considered nonfrail, while participants with one or two were considered intermediate frail. Plasma vitamin E levels were determined using reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. Measured confounders included lower extremity muscle strength, cognitive function, diseases, and factors related to vitamin E metabolism. Results. Age- and gender-adjusted levels of vitamin E decreased gradually from the nonfrail to the frail group (p for trend = .015). In the logistic model adjusted for multiple potential confounders, participants in the highest vitamin E tertile were less likely to be frail than were participants in the lowest vitamin E tertile (odds ratio, 0.30; 95% confidence interval, 0.10-0.91). Conclusions. Our findings show an association between low circulating levels of one of the most important components of the human antioxidant system and the presence of frailty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-283
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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