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 > or = 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.