NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who eat foods rich in vitamin E may be protected from certain allergies, new findings suggest.

In the study, Dr. Andrew Fogarty and colleagues from the University of Nottingham in the UK found that adults who consumed the most vitamin E had fewer allergy-related antibodies in their blood.

High levels of these antibodies are associated with asthma and allergies, the authors explain in the November 4th issue of The Lancet. And since asthma involves increased levels of oxidants, compounds that damage the DNA of cells, antioxidants such as vitamin E may reduce the likelihood of asthma by reducing levels of these compounds, Fogerty told Reuters Health.

His study found that every extra milligram (mg) of vitamin E consumed lowered antibody levels by more than 5%. However, the beneficial effect leveled off at 7 mg of vitamin E per day, and no additional benefit was seen with higher levels of the vitamin, the report indicates. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, wheat germ, cereal grains, fruits, green vegetables, meat, eggs and certain types of fish.

Results of the study are based on data from more than 2,600 adults aged 18 to 70 years, who answered questions about their diet and their symptoms of asthma and hayfever. Individuals were also tested for allergies to grass pollen, cat fur and dust mites.

The findings warrant further investigation into the potential use of vitamin E in the prevention of allergies, Fogarty and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: The Lancet 2000;356:1573-1574.