A lack of Vitamin E -- often a sign of poor nutrition -- is linked to physical decline in older people, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers studied nutrition and physical function in 698 people aged 65 and older in Tuscany, Italy, conducting baseline examinations followed by three-year follow-up assessments, from 1998 to 2003.
In particular the scientists, led by Benedetta Bartali of the Yale University School of Medicine, measured levels of micronutrients in the blood, including vitamins B6, B12, D and E.
They found that, with other factors taken into account, only low levels of vitamin E were significantly associated with physical decline.
"Although the findings from this epidemiological study cannot establish causality, they provide a solid base that low concentration of vitamin E contributes to decline in physical function," the study's authors wrote.
"Clinical trials may be warranted to determine whether optimal concentration of vitamin E reduces functional decline and the onset of disability in older persons with a low concentration of vitamin E," they said.
Participants in the study did not take vitamin supplements, nor do the researchers recommend them.
They noted that a sufficient amount of vitamin E can easily be obtained from almonds, tomato sauce and sunflower seeds, among other sources.
The study appeared in the January 23 edition of JAMA.