Effective disease-modifying treatments are an urgent need for Parkinson's disease (PD). A putative successful strategy is to counteract oxidative stress, not only with synthetic compounds, but also with natural agents or dietary choices. Vitamin E, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant, commonly found in vegetables and other components of the diet. In this work, we performed a questionnaire based case-control study on 100 PD patients and 100 healthy controls. The analysis showed that a higher dietary intake of Vitamin E was inversely associated with PD occurrence independently from age and gender (OR = 1.022; 95% CI = 0.999-1.045; p < 0.05), though unrelated to clinical severity. Then, in order to provide a mechanistic explanation for such observation, we tested the effects of Vitamin E and other alimentary antioxidants in vitro, by utilizing the homozygous PTEN-induced kinase 1 knockout (PINK1-/-) mouse model of PD. PINK1-/- mice exhibit peculiar alterations of synaptic plasticity at corticostriatal synapses, consisting in the loss of both long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), in the absence of overt neurodegeneration. Chronic administration of Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol and the water-soluble analog trolox) fully restored corticostriatal synaptic plasticity in PINK1-/- mice, suggestive of a specific protective action. Vitamin E might indeed compensate PINK1 haploinsufficiency and mitochondrial impairment, reverting some central steps of the pathogenic process. Altogether, both clinical and experimental findings suggest that Vitamin E could be a potential, useful agent for PD patients. These data, although preliminary, may encourage future confirmatory trials.
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